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New Round of Campaign to Unseat Some Candidates Rekindles Controversy

New Round of Campaign to Unseat Some Candidates Rekindles Controversy

Posted January. 27, 2004 23:18,   


Citizens’ Solidarity for the Elections 2004, an umbrella of various civil-society groups, will hold a launching ceremony on February 3, a cue for an all-out campaign to unseat some legislators during the April National Assembly elections.

Tensions are rising among politicians, who saw the power of the same campaign in 2000. They nervously eye the campaign.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled the campaign as illicit, paving the way for probes by the National Election Committee and other regulators.

Solidarity’s Plans-- People Power 21, the organization which proposed the solidarity, announced its plans for unseating some candidates on January 27.

Following the pattern set in the campaign four years ago, they will first announce two separate lists of politicians whom they don’t want to be nominated by any party. They will announce the first list on February 10, and the second, which will mainly include non-incumbents, on February 10.

Their criteria include: whether National Assembly contenders have been implicated in corruption (the people’s primary concern), whether they have been implicated in human rights violations or the destruction of constitutional order, their morality and capabilities, whether they have been involved in anti-voters and anti-parliament activities, and their attitudes toward policy making. The activists will itemize scores for each of the criteria and select the candidates they will campaign to unseat.

“A voters’ committee, consisting of a variety of civil group members of diverse backgrounds, will select politicians who should not be nominated as party candidates or elected as legislators,” said Citizens’ Solidarity. “We will reflect the people’s views and opinions rather than our activist perspective.”

The Citizens’ Solidarity include about 274 groups such as People Power 21, the Korean Federation for Environment Movement, Green Korea United, College Professors’ Conference for a Democratic Society, Committee Against Corruption, and Conference for National Reconciliation. More groups are expected to join the network, raising its number of affiliates to more than 300.

“Although the number of affiliates is about one-third the level of the 2000 campaign, many more groups with more influence in the 2004 solidarity will mean that we will be as effective as we were four year ago,” said Kim Kisik, the executive director of People Power 21.

“We’ve already completed the base research of incumbents. We are now collecting responses for the data,” said Citizens’ Solidarity, adding, “However, there will be many first-time runners in the elections, making it hard for us to investigate them all.”

Tensions Among Politicians--In 2000, out of the 86 candidates at which the campaigns were aimed, 59 lost the elections. Especially, among 20 metropolitan area candidates, 19 lost.

The Grand National Party (GNP) plans to act sternly against the campaign. “The campaign was already declared illegal at the Supreme Court,” GNP spokesman Park Jin said. “If civil groups use arbitrary criteria to judge candidates, this will cause another legal dispute.” He demanded the National Election Commission to take stern action.

“The campaign should be organized fairly within the legal framework,” said spokesman Kim Young-hwan of the Millennium Democratic Party with caution. “The campaign should judge the GNP, which raise truckloads of cash in slush funds, and the Uri Party, which split the democratic force, instead of targeting individual candidates.”

The Uri Party welcomes the campaign.

Meanwhile, the National Election Commission said, “Announcing the lists of candidates whom are targeted to be unseated does not amount to a violation of electoral regulations.” “Distributing any printed materials containing the lists, putting up banners, or holding rallies for the campaign is illegal,” the watchdog said. “We will closely watch whether or not they commit any irregularities.”

Yong-Gwan Jung In-Jik Cho yongari@donga.com cij1999@donga.com