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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 30)

All News 07:01 November 30, 2021

Stop negative campaigning
Rival candidates should present visions for future

With 99 days left before the March 9 presidential election, the race has already been heating up though the official campaign won't kick off until Feb. 15. This election is more important than ever as it will pick the head of state who will lead the Republic of Korea for the next five years amid grave challenges at home and abroad. A new leader is supposed to focus on steering the nation to tide over various difficulties such as the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, soaring housing prices, high youth unemployment and an aging population.

Candidates need to present policies and solutions to these imminent and knotty issues to win voters' support. For this, expectations were growing that they would engage in a fierce competition over policy suggestions and visions for the future that can bring hope to the nation. Yet the candidates have largely failed to measure up to the people's expectations, only exchanging accusations against each other in highly negative campaigning.

According to major opinion polls, Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and Yoon Seok-youl of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) are currently leading the race, chased by minor candidates ― Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party. Lee and Yoon have so far invited public irritation by engaging in a reckless war of words, disparaging their counterparts and even their family members.

Worse still, both of them face various allegations about their involvement in criminal cases. Lee might have played a role in a corruption scandal related to a massive land development project in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. Yoon is under investigation for allegedly having misused his authority while serving as prosecutor general by inciting an opposition lawmaker to file criminal complaints against ruling camp figures. Yoon has also been dogged by alleged law violations by his wife and mother-in-law.

Against this backdrop, the presidential race has turned into a competition among candidates who draw more antipathy than empathy from the public. More worrisome is that either Lee or Yoon may be forced out of the race depending on the results of investigations by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO).

Now we are facing grave tasks to overcome. Besides the real estate speculation and economic difficulties, security and foreign policy issues are also significant amid ever-heightening tensions between the United States and China, coupled with stalled denuclearization talks involving North Korea. Time is running out. The candidates need to hold heated but constructive discussions about those matters.

It is regrettable that they are engaging in a spate of name-calling and finger-pointing. This blame game has only frustrated the electorate. The rival candidates should stop such negative campaigning immediately and play fair by competing on future visions and policies. Voters, for their part, should carefully assess their qualifications and competence so that they can choose the best leader for the country.

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