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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 3)

All News 06:53 November 03, 2020

Shameful decision
Ruling party under fire for seeking mayoral candidacy

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has come under strong criticism for its decision to field candidates for the mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan slated for next April. The decision came Monday after a vote by party members, with 86.64 percent in favor of nominating candidates for the elections.

The move has drawn a fierce backlash from the opposition bloc and the people as it infringes on the DPK's regulation that prevents it from fielding candidates in case elected post holders, who are affiliated with the party, resign over grave wrongdoings such as bribery and sex crimes. The regulation was enacted in 2015, when President Moon Jae-in was party chairman, to polish its image as a reform-oriented progressive party.

Under the rule, the DPK was not supposed to have any candidates run for mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan after former mayors Park Won-soon and Oh Keo-don vacated their positions. Park committed suicide in July amid sexual harassment allegations involving his secretary, while Oh was forced to leave his post in April in connection with a sexual harassment case.

The DPK's decision is very disappointing because it runs counter to its pledge to ensure political accountability and integrity. It also represents retrogress in political reform and we worry about the possible adverse impact this will have on other political parties.

DPK Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon defended the party's move by saying, "We have reached the conclusion that it would be better and more responsible to get the people's judgment on our candidates instead of not fielding them." But Lee's remark is nothing but sophistry. He and his party deserve criticism because it is an attempt to justify its broken pledge and shirk responsibility.

Lee went on to say that it is inevitable for the party to participate in by-elections to win in the forthcoming presidential election in 2022. It is understandable, given the crucial significance the mayoral posts have on the presidential poll. But it is not desirable for the party to revise its regulation without any self-reflection or even an apology for the mayors' alleged sexual harassment.

Many people feel uncomfortable with the DPK's move to revise its own internal rule while it holds a majority of 176 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly. The DPK's seemingly arrogant attitude will surely bring about repercussions from the public and deal a setback to its bid for the by-elections and the presidential poll.

The party should accept the criticism humbly, do its best to prevent a recurrence of sex crime cases and keep its promises. In addition, the by-elections will cost about 80 billion won ($70 million). The DPK should seriously consider shouldering part of the election cost because the by-elections will be held due to its members' wrongdoings. But it had better not field candidates for the vacant posts.

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