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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 12)

All News 07:04 February 12, 2020

Big political showdown
Two rivals should play fair in Jongno district

The campaign race has started with two political heavyweights declaring their candidacy for Seoul's central district of Jongno in the upcoming April 15 general election. It represents a big match between the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP).

LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ah has joined the race, announcing his bid to run the symbolic constituency in Korean politics, Friday. He will challenge the DPK's candidate Lee Nak-yon. Interestingly it is a contest between former prime ministers of the current and previous governments. Hwang was the last prime minister of the Park Geun-hye administration, while Lee served as the first for the Moon Jae-in government.

More importantly, Lee and Hwang will be thrown into a showdown between the liberal and conservative quarters. That's why their fight will set the tone for the entire National Assembly elections which are seen as a vote of confidence in the Moon administration. By extension, who will win the seat in Jongno is likely to set the direction for the next presidential election ― the two are regarded as strong presidential hopefuls.

For starters, the rival candidates should play fair. They need to compete in good faith and must refrain from engaging in smear campaigns. They need to clash over policy proposals and better visions for the future of our society and nation.

Yet Lee and Hwang are expected to be lock horns with each other over ideological issues reflecting the growing national divide between the left and right. They may inevitably seek to find find fault with the incumbent and previous governments. If this happens, they will be unable to avoid making the mistake of repeating old-fashioned electioneering and outdated politics.

Now is a time for change. Instead of besmirching each other, they should work hard to highlight their own strengths and achievements. Lee and Hwang need to show respect for each other without blindly pursuing a winner-take-all mentality.

Lee will seemingly seek to persuade voters to give the governing camp one more chance to complete its reforms and rebuild a country still suffering from the fallout of the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, ousted for corruption and abuse of power. He may accuse the LKP of blocking Moon's reform measures and inclusive growth policy only the for sake of opposition.

On the other hand, Hwang has vowed to take issue with the Moon administration's policy blunders, especially its failure to revive the economy and improve people's livelihoods. He is trying to frame his campaign as a fight against the government. It is important for him to rally supporters behind him and his party.

One of challenges Hwang faces is how to overcome his party's factional strife between pro-Park and anti-Park groups. Without overcoming the internal feud and split, he will not fare well in the race. Another issue is how to join with smaller conservative parties, including Rep. Yoo Seong-min's newly created party, to form a united front against the ruling camp. His political fate will depend on how to win over the minds of voters.

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