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Shady Candidates in Local Elections

Posted February. 23, 2010 09:06,   


Ninety-nine days remain before the country’s fifth local elections, which will elect upper and lower level government leaders, municipal and provincial council legislators, and superintendents. Registered candidates have begun their campaign trail across the nation. Public mistrust and doubt have grown since the beginning of the local autonomous system in 1995 because of worsening corruption and moral hazard by municipal and provincial leaders and officials.

The convictions of the former head of the Seodaemun District Office of Seoul, Hyeon Dong-hoon, and three chiefs of staff for accepting large bribes in return for favors in redevelopment projects and promotion are just the tip of the iceberg in the corruption wave. Former and incumbent legislators are also under investigation for election graft. A man allegedly offered 300 million won (261,430 U.S. dollars) to the main opposition Democratic Party in return for a nomination for a proportional representation seat in the 2006 local elections.

The Public Administration and Security Ministry says 28 of 66 heads of municipal and provincial governments in the Seoul metropolitan area elected by the public in 2006 were prosecuted for corruption and election law violations. Because of this, half of the elected officials will not fulfill their terms. Such officials have commonly colluded with construction companies, bigwigs in their constituencies, and councils, and have even offered trade promotion for money.

Corruption is rampant throughout municipal and provincial governments, and the corruption food chain has taken root because campaign trails require a huge sum of money. Yet political parties still cannot filter out those suspected of corruption or prone to taking bribes. Politicians still preparing to run in the elections despite undergoing trials indicate that they are not serious about the party nomination process. Even after being charged, Hyeon gave up his position as Seodaemun chief and immediately prepared to run for governor of Jeju Island. He was arrested Feb. 10 when the corruption investigation was ongoing.

Parties must make their nomination processes transparent and conduct a strict and ethical screening process to exclude candidates implicated in corruption. To reduce corruption in municipal and provincial governments, voters must punish parties when they nominate those who have a track record of corruption or are prone to corruption. In addition, those who run for reelection should be held accountable for their performances and transparency as well as supervision of corruption of their subordinates.