The June 1 local elections will be held today. The People Power Party appealed for support, asserting, "The change of leadership is complete only when local governments are replaced." The Democratic Party of Korea pleaded by arguing the need for checks and balances, “Help us provide a counterweight.” With most campaigns being highlighted as an extension of the presidential election, many view this year's local elections as particularly devoid of substantive agendas that matter to their communities.
This year’s local elections involve casting ballots for many government officials on the same day, in which the voting will select representatives for 4,132 elective jobs, such as provincial governors, mayors, metropolitan and provincial council heads and members, education office superintendents and members of lower-level local councils. The total number of candidates is approximately 7,500. Except in some regions, a single voter has to mark his or her ballot paper seven times, making it hard to know details of the campaign details of the candidates. Thus, there is also concern about the possibility of a, “don’t ask me why I voted” sentiment, where people cast their votes without carefully scrutinizing the qualifications or election campaign platform of each candidate.
As a result, there are many candidates with criminal records that make them inappropriate to run for public office. Roughly 2,700 people campaigning for seats for elected positions have at least one criminal record, which is one in three candidates. Among them, there are a number of people convicted with violent crimes, such as sexual assault, fraud, gambling, and assault. There are several people with a very long rap shoot, and some candidates have not paid any taxes in the last five years. There is also a candidate who has paid zero taxes, has not completed military service, and has committed a criminal offense, achieving a ‘Triple Crown’.
Although those with unconscionable criminal records have usually run for office as independents, there is not a small number of cases where they managed to pass candidate evaluation in the political party nomination stage. About 30% of candidates nominated by the PPP and the DPO have criminal records. Each political party has put in place criteria regarding drunk driving and sexual offenses, etc., against which candidates are vetted, but obviously, this vetting process is not properly implemented. In particular, criminal records for ‘impaired driving and driving without a license’ are turned a blind eye. This is because, in many cases, those with political interests, such as national assembly members of the constituency or the chairman of the party member council, get the nomination.
Ultimately, it is up to the voters to screen out the unqualified and elect those who are capable of improving lives in their communities and neighborhoods. Voters should carefully review the website of the National Election Commission or the election guides and information leaflets to learn in depth of the candidates and familiarize themselves with each candidate’s personal information, such as assets, military service, tax payment, and criminal record. Because, those who have never paid taxes, have committed unscrupulous crimes such as sexual harassment, or who have repeatedly engaged in fraud, gambling, and driving under the influence, should never be left to be given power to work for any community and neighborhood. Voters should make all-out effort to stop some unscrupulous candidates from becoming elected officials.