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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 6)

All News 07:02 April 06, 2021

Refrain from mudslinging
Candidates should play fair to the last minute

Rival candidates running in the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan are indulging themselves more in negative campaigning rather than competing against each other squarely on policies and visions to make the country's two largest cities better places to live in. It is disappointing that the candidates and their parties are still resorting to mudslinging and character assassination with only one day left before the moment of truth.

Desperate to win the elections, the candidates from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) have made groundless allegations against each other. For instance, Seoul mayoral candidate Park Young-sun of the DPK has gone too far in attacking her rival Oh Se-hoon of the PPP over his family-owned land in Dogok-dong, southern Seoul.

She and her party have repeatedly called on Oh to abandon his candidacy to take responsibility for the controversy over his alleged role in helping his family receive huge compensation for the land ― designated for a residential development project ― as former Seoul mayor.

Oh's camp strongly countered her and the DPK by saying that Park should not have run for mayor in the first place to abide by her party's previous pledge not to field a candidate in a constituency where the party-affiliated head quits over misdeeds such as sexual harassment. Oh pointed to the case of former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon who committed suicide following allegations of sexual harassment by his secretary. He called out Park and her party for breaking this pledge, calling them liars during a TV debate late Monday night.

Voters are already fed up with the candidates' slanderous remarks against each other. All candidates should engage in fair competition by presenting better ideas and policies.

The turnout for early voting in Seoul and Busan on April 2 and 3 reached 20.54 percent, breaking the record of 19.4 percent set in the Oct. 29, 2014, by-elections. Many experts presumed that more supporters of the opposition candidates than those of the ruling party went to polling stations to hold the Moon Jae-in administration accountable for a set of policy blunders, including a failure to bring soaring housing prices under control. A recent land speculation scandal involving employees of the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corp. has made centrist voters turn their backs on the ruling camp.

Both the DPK and the PPP seem to be elated by the higher than expected early voting turnout. The DPK asserts there are still many "shy progressives" or hidden supporters of the party, while the PPP appears self-confident in winning the election. The two parties should bear in mind that an increasing number of people are fed up with their negative campaigns and populist pledges.

Oh and Park cannot avoid criticism for their unrealistic and populist campaign promises to drastically increase the housing supply. They also triggered public anger by using slurs. For instance, Oh described President Moon as a "grave Alzheimer's patient" while Park's campaigners called Oh "garbage."

It regrettable that the candidates have failed to play fair by presenting handsome policies needed for the nation's capital and second largest city. They have also disappointed the people who are craving a drastic change in politics and a better future. Voters should make a wise and cool-headed decision on polling day.

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