Koreans are going to the polls today to elect a new president with the hope the candidate they choose will lead them into a better future.
An election is a platform for people to evaluate candidates and select one who will lead them. Voters weigh many elements including a candidate’s morality, vision, policies and competence.
The presidential election today can be simplified into a matter of choice between a change of regime and a continuation of it.
In his inaugural address on May 10 five years ago, President Moon Jae-in promised to build a nation where opportunities are equal, processes fair and results righteous. The common crowd who‘s longing for a nation where justice prevails was enthusiastic about his faultless words. But the promise turned out to be a mirage. Voters must sift out hypocritical candidates who say one thing and do another.
Moon also said in his speech that he would become president of all people, including those who did not support him. He vowed to change politics of division and conflict. But voices of opposition parties fell on a deaf ear.
Throughout his presidency, his regime split up people into those on their side and those not, then took care of the former while ignoring the latter. It incessantly attempted to break up right-wing conservatives. For a better future, a candidate who is not divisive and can put together discord must be chosen.
Those on the side of the current regime hated hearing criticisms and pushed ahead with populist policies and legislations. The nation needs a new leader who will drive out populism which devastated the national spirit and bruised the national economy.
Moon pledged to meet people often for informal chats, and also to brief reporters frequently on important issues. But he broke his word. He merely looked on as the ruling party tried in vain to revise the media law in an apparent bid to gag media critical of the government. Voters must choose a candidate who will protect freedom of speech even if criticisms get on his or her nerves.
He vowed to make judicial institutions completely independent from politics. But their independence and political neutrality crumbled. He filled important posts in the prosecution with his supporters under the pretext of reform. They prevented a proper investigation into allegations involving those close to the president. The newly created Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials secretly checked phone records of civilians to probe suspicions about an opposition party candidate. But the president has said nothing on this issue. The next leader ought to correct distorted reforms pushed by the current administration.
North Korea exposed its ambition to communize South Korea by force, developed atomic bombs and tested different missiles without hesitation. The US alliance has protected South Korea and propped up its economic growth since the Korean War ended in a truce, but under Moon, it has become more precarious than ever before. This is due to his administration appeasing North Korea and bowing to China. The next leader must get the US alliance back to normal as the world is entering a new Cold War after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Moon administration prioritized job creation, but job-creating growth has been stymied by its anti-market, labor-biased policies. Instead it created part-time jobs with taxpayers money to make the job data look good. Despite more than 20 rounds of measures, real estate prices have skyrocketed. It tried to curb them with tax bombs, only aggravating popular distress. As the election day approached, it vowed to lessen tax burden to get more votes.
Every candidate promises change, but its tone and direction vary. Every voter has his or her own criteria of choice but the big picture must not be forgotten: To stay the course with slight variation or to change the direction. The nation is at critical crossroads. Only level-headed judgment by voters can get it back on the right track.
By Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org