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NEC on High Alert against Online Mud Slinging

Posted November. 29, 2007 03:10,   


NEC Standing Commissioner Kim Ho-yeol made the following comments on the upcoming presidential election season in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo yesterday.

― What would you say of the ongoing campaigns?

“This time around, we see less room for bribery, illegal campaign intervention by civic groups, and regional hegemony. Overall, things have improved on the surface. In substance, however, candidates concentrate more on mud slinging. Thus, I don’t see much difference at the core.”

― The National Election Commission (NEC) warned some candidates against delivering campaign speeches at illegal assemblies. This is the first time in history, isn’t it?

“If a leader wins an election using illegal means, how could we assert and enforce the rule of law? I hope they take our warning very seriously. We issued the warning with the authority granted by the Constitution.”

Not only candidates, but also the public and the media are responsible for the mud slinging-

― Negative tactics are rampant in this election, aren’t they?

“Negative campaigns are effective in elections. This strategy costs the least, but reaps the most. It doesn’t take much money, time or effort. Just one lucky punch can tip the balance.”

NEC Standing Commissioner Kim voiced his opinion louder on this matter, saying, “Not only candidates, but also the public and the media are responsible for the mud slinging.” He continued, “26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would have gotten knocked out if they had run in Korea. They had shortcomings. But their voters made their choices not based on their personal shortcomings.”

― Why do you believe candidates don’t care much about policies?

“We need a system in which political parties appeal to the citizens using their policies only. Each party publishes 100 campaign promises. But I doubt whether each candidate understands them. Quite often, political parties prop up improvised pork-barrel policies. Political parties represent the public, and therefore they should take responsibility for their behavior. Citizens should also supervise their actions.”

―What are the priorities of the NEC?

“We are concerned the most about the ongoing mud slinging. We are on high alert against online negative campaigns. We are operating a cyber-patrol unit consisting of 1,000 staff members. Prior to November 27, when the official campaign started, we deleted an average of 300 postings a day. Without our vigilant action, cyberspace would be filled with slanderous postings.”

Young people should pay more attention to the policies of candidates –

― Some people protest against such vigilance. What would you say?

“Some lawmakers visited us in protest. In fact, the United New Democrats visited us on November 20 because we shut down a website soliciting signatures to petition the tax authorities to launch a probe into the alleged tax evasion of [Grand National Party candidate] Mr. Lee [Myung-bak]. Frankly, it is sometimes really difficult. The problem bothers us most when part of a posting is negatively intended. Let me use this metaphor. I notice a drop of poison in my meal. Should I take it? I guess not. Even a drop makes the whole meal poisonous.”

― Do you want to convey any message to Korea’s netizens?

“I wish they paid more attention to what candidates promise. They are playing word games. They just pay too much attention to what candidates are quoted as saying in the media. Young folks should grill candidates about the visions they offer. Candidates cannot ignore what voters demand. Thus, when voters value policies, politicians will emphasize policies.”

―How are things different compared with the 2002 presidential election?

“Compared with the last election, things are much easier. No candidate commands the avid passion President Roh’s supporters showed last time. I worry about the indifference. Most people seem to believe that the election result is already predetermined. I’m afraid fewer voters will vote this year.”