Go to contents

Presidential election only 19 days ahead, manifesto still missing

Presidential election only 19 days ahead, manifesto still missing

Posted February. 18, 2022 07:50,   

Updated February. 18, 2022 07:50


With the South Korean presidential election only 19 days ahead, the publication of the candidates’ manifesto is being delayed a day after another. While the time is ripe for voters to peruse the manifesto and make their judgment on how consistent, reasonable, and feasible the candidates’ pledges are, the voters are not given the access to such basic information. Following the controversies surrounding the candidates and their families, now the Korean presidential election is faced with a potential “manifesto risk”.

The publication is getting delayed because the candidates are splurging new pledges from their campaign trails. Their manifestos are being constantly edited, with ruling Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung promising to lower the beneficiary age of children’s allowances to 18, and main opposition People Power Party candidate Yoon Seok-youl vowing to increase the basic pension payment by 100,000 won. Ahn Chul-soo from the People’s Party or Shim Sang-jeong from the Justice Party are doing not so differently.

Delays of manifesto publication are nothing new in the history of presidential elections in South Korea, but this time the things are a little bit different. Their vision on how to run the country continues to oscillate, and there are so many customized policies aimed at a specific generation or a specific group. The candidates are showering voters with myriads of pledges such as “instituting a new allowance” or “payment increase.” They are also unabashedly copying each other’s pledges including the one that promises a two-million won monthly payment for drafted soldiers. With so many big and small pledges coming out everyday, it is hard to discern any common denominator to define their philosophy or vision.

Both Lee and Yoon are openly cranking up their competition of largesse but keeping silent about how to finance their plans. Answering questions from the Korea Manifesto Center, Lee Jae-myung said it will take more than 300 trillion won to implement his 270 or so pledges, but he failed to specify how much money it will cost for subcategories. Yoon said it will cost around 266 trillion won for his 200 pledges, but it was nothing but a ballpark figure. There is no telling how they will boost tax revenues and cut spending to handle such stratospheric costs.

Now is no time to propose yet another populist pledge. What the voters need right now is a timely publication of a manifesto stipulating the candidates’ vision and philosophy as a leader, goals for each category and their annual execution plans, budget and financing plans that will allow them to make thorough comparisons of different candidates to choose which candidate they will vote for.