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Who is to blame for TV debate debacle?

Posted December. 06, 2012 06:10,   


The first official TV debate among presidential candidates was held for 110 minutes Tuesday night among Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party, Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party, and Lee Jung-hee of the minor opposition United Progressive Party. The debate, however, allowed Lee, whose approval rating is below 1 percent, to speak for the same amount of time as the other two, each of whose approval ratings exceed 40 percent. This effectively intruded on the people’s right to choose. The ruling and main opposition parties are not immune to responsibility for allowing Lee to enter the debate.

Call a "Cinderella" of a political faction that backs North Korea, Lee served as head of the Democratic Labor Party, her party`s predecessor. The United Progressive Party disparaged the identity of South Korea and its constitutional values even before the April 11 general elections. Her faction was even called by the leftist camp the “second company of the (North) Korean Workers` Party.” The Democratic United Party blindly sought to form an alliance with Lee`s party before the parliamentary elections. The two sides` agreement to “dramatically improve inter-Korean relations through establishing a peace regime” is interpreted by certain quarters as leading to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea. The main opposition party even promised to abolish the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to curry favor with its proposed partner, which is obsessed with political engineering to earn more votes. Having taken the main opposition party as a host through the alliance, the progressive party has the third-largest number of parliamentary seats with 13 seats. Even after the party was split after a vote-rigging scandal following the general elections, it still retains six seats.

Lee Seok-gi, a core member of the progressive party`s pro-North Korea faction, ignited public anger by saying following the U.S. is a “bigger problem” than following North Korea, and that South Korea’s national anthem was not official. Kim Jae-yeon, a party lawmaker from the same faction, also sided with the North by saying Seoul should not strike back even if attacked by Pyongyang. After the launch of the 19th National Assembly, the ruling party worked together with its main opposition rival to expel Lee and Kim from the legislature, only to retract the move quietly. How preposterous it is for the two major parties to blast Lee Jung-hee’s controversial comments in the TV debate without digging into her past.

The winner of the presidential election will be inaugurated as president Feb. 25. He or she must read a clause in the Constitution on the president’s duty of abiding by the Constitution, defending the country, making efforts to achieve peaceful reunification, and raising freedom and welfare of the people. The country`s constitutional values seek solidifying a liberal democracy, a market economy and rule of law. The core part of political reforms should be on restoring and practicing such constitutional values. Lee of the progressive party called the South Korean government “the government of the southern side” in the debate, only to correct herself by saying “the government of the Republic of Korea.” The ruling and main opposition parties cannot avoid their responsibility for having effectively helped Lee cause a mess in the debate.

Ironically, the debate showed that a key part of political reform should be eliminating from the political establishment pro-North Korean forces who undermine the country`s constitutional order and national security. Nevertheless, how lamentable that the two major parties, which have experience in ruling the country, are urging political reform while ignoring the presence of pro-Pyongyang politicians.