Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Jan. 24)

All News 07:02 January 24, 2017

Unfiltered populism
Dark horse candidate jolts rivals with realistic touch

One potential candidate after another is declaring their official bid for presidency in the election that will likely come in the next few months.

Against the backdrop of "candlelit protests" that forced President Park Geun-hye to face impeachment, the candidates are trying to lure voters to their side with populist pledges that sound very appealing but lack a sense of realism. Eclipsed amid the populist din by leading bidders is Ahn Hee-jung, South Chuncheong Province governor, who is catching the attention of voters with his blunt hard-headed message, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Ahn's fresh approach strikes a contrast to the rest of the field.

Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner in opinion polls, zigzagged, for instance, on the controversial deployment decision on a he U.S. missile interceptor system, calling for the cancellation of the plan through renegotiations. Then, Moon, the losing candidate to Park in the previous election, dropped the negotiation pledge in order to cater to centrist voters.

Moon's proposal for creating 1.3 million new jobs was wobbly at best. Moon wants to increase jobs in the public sector, a perennial target of criticism for its bloated payroll. Also ringing hollow is his promise to raise the pay level of employees at small- and medium-sized firms to 80 percent of that in big firms and reduce the gap between regular and irregular workers.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung also, who just declared his candidacy, remains truthful to his populist agenda that worked to raise his popularity in the recent anti-Park protests. His central platform is promoting the expansion of the universal basic income _ an initiative that he has implemented on a trial basis. Still, how to fund the program and reconcile the subsequent strife between haves and have-nots is a big hole in his proposal.

Even, Rep. Yoo Seung-min, an economist from the Bareun Party which was formed by anti-Park forces and broke away from the ruling Saenuri Party, also suggested a too-good-to-be-true pledge on parental leave. Yoo is scheduled to declare his candidacy Wednesday.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon argued for the adoption of the French nomenclature to bring "equality" to colleges and universities as a resolution to address the fierce competition in college admissions. The risk of Park's proposal is that it kills a motive for the institutions of higher learning to improve their curriculum and faculty, and prepare the students for an ever-changing work environment.

In contrast, Ahn, a liberal-minded former student activist, is making a new wave by saying that the missile interceptor deployment is irreversible in contrast to Moon's stance. He also ran a five-hour question and answer session to emulate the Obama-style politics on the basis of constant, inclusive communication with the people. Campaign pledges need a dose of reality and Ahn is providing it, although his popularity is still in single digits.

Issue Keywords
Most Liked
Most Saved
Most Viewed More
Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!