Go to contents

Foul Play in Overheated Election Campaign

Posted April. 07, 2008 06:38,   


The campaigns for the April 9 General Election are in total chaos as the election day is drawing near. Desperate candidates are distributing money, treating voters to food and drinks, mud-slinging their counterparts, and even sparking a regional division.

With three days remaining, political parties staged a battle of words with scores of comments on each other on Sunday alone.

▽ Bribery and corruption allegations are rampant

The police agency of North Gyeongsang Province, which is investigating the bribery scandal involving campaign workers of Kim Il-yun of the Pro-Park Alliance for Gyeongju, arrested 10 members of Kim’s camp on bribery charges on Sunday.

The police also conducted seizure and search for six more members of the camp, including former and incumbent city council members.

The Ilsan Police Office in Gyeonggi Province arrested a woman, identified by her surname Kim (51), without detention on Sunday. Kim, who works for Han Myung-suk of the United Democratic Party (Ilsan Dong-gu), allegedly had dinner with local civic group leaders and asked for their support.

Kim dined with 11 people at a restaurant located in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on March 29 and paid a total of 270,000 won for the food.

Kim Jin-pyo, UDP candidate for Yeongtong, Suwon, accused Park Chan-suk, his rival from the Grand National Party, of violating the election law, a counter-attack to the same charge brought against him by GNP’s Gyeonggi office.

“Park’s camp is using her recorded voice to send promotional messages to voters through an ARS system. The election law prohibits campaignining using a recording device,” said Kim’s camp.

“Candidate Kim Jin-pyo is distributing a large amount of cash in an organized way, stirring up a controversy. The GNP’s Gyeonggi office recorded his illicit campaign activities and sent the original CD as evidence to the prosecution. Kim saying it is not true and threatening a legal action is shameless,” said Kim Dae-eun, deputy spokesman for the GNP.

In the Gimhae-Eul constituency of South Gyeongsang Province, candidates who have been bickering over attendance to the National Assembly are now to settle the issue in court.

Choi Cheol-guk of the UDP, a sitting assemblyman of the region, lodged a formal accusation with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office against candidate Song Eun-bok of the Grand National Party, on charges of false claims and defamation.

In its letter to the prosecution, Choi’s camp said “Song falsely claimed that Choi has an average 27 percent attendance at the National Assembly, missing seven or eight out of 10 days, during a candidate debate,” and argued, “Choi’s record of attendance for the National Assembly is 87.85 percent, and 76.03 percent for standing committee meetings.”

Song’s camp, in response, said, “The attendance is quoted from a Web site of a National Assembly monitoring group. It is correct.” It added they are going to take due legal actions against Choi.”

▽ Fierce monitoring competition

Candidates are also scrambling to catch any signs of illegal campaigning of their contenders.

A candidate in the Saha-Eul constituency of Busan increased the number of workers for election monitoring from 10 to 30.

An election camp in Geumjeong, Busan, came up with a shift arrangement to keep a person in the office at night to prevent the opposite camps or their supporters to slip in and plant evidence of illegal campaigning such as cash.

In particular, the camps of some losing candidates are trailing the key staff of the contending camp 24/7 by organizing secret watchdog groups of 2-3 people in the hope of “turning the tide.”

The intense watch even leads to scuffles in some areas.

An independent candidate of Gwangju asserted that his monitoring staff was detained and assaulted by three people working for the contender’s camp, and deprived of resident registration cards, a notebook and a recorder.

The contender’s camp responded, “An unidentified car was following us throughout the campaign. When we found out, it turned out to belong to the other camp.” It kept on saying, “There was a brief row in the process. Assault under detention is a gross exaggeration.”

sys1201@donga.com leon@donga.com