Top Presidential Candidates Must Pull Themselves Together

      November 29, 2021 13:11

      The presidential election is 100 days ahead. During his single five-year term, President Moon Jae-in has pursued a disastrous doctrine of "income-led growth" that ignored market principles and ended up pushing millions of small business owners to financial ruin. His failed policies resulted in a sharp decline in the number of jobs available for people in their 30s and 40s and a marked rise in part-time jobs. Increased welfare spending resulted in Korea's fiscal debt snowballing to W1 quadrillion, and his failed attempt to tame real estate prices through punitive taxes resulted instead in soaring home prices (US$1=W1,195). Moon's rushed attempt to embrace green energy ended up causing Korea's nuclear power industry, which was the most competitive in the world, to crumble. And by betting everything on pointless photo-ops with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the nation's security and alliance with the U.S. weakened. The public hopes that a new government will return the country back on a course to prosperity. But the candidates of both the ruling an opposition parties are looking more and more hopeless.

      Distrust of the ruling Minjoo Party's presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung is rightly growing. Not only is he embroiled in a land development scandal from his time as mayor of Seongnam, when he favored an inexperienced construction company in the biggest project the city had ever seen, he is now trying to soft-pedal an independent investigation into the abuses. And when it emerged that he defended his nephew, who had brutally murdered two women in their home, in court using the insanity plea he often favored as a criminal attorney, he referred to it as an "unfortunate case of dating violence." When he has taken time out from responding to these unsavory episodes to lay out his policies, they have sounded even more absurd than the current president's.

      Meanwhile across the aisle, People Power Party candidate Yoon Seok-youl has been unable to form an election committee more than 20 days after his nomination. Veteran PPP lawmakers tripped over each other to be selected to lead the committee, but Yoon, who only recently joined the party, is desperately reaching out instead to former Minjoo figures in the hope of generating a broader appeal. While that farce continues and arguments rage over who took phone calls from whom, no experts in the economy, national security or other fields can be spotted in his ranks. Yoon has been unable to present any concrete policies and baffled voters by being seen in public with a mark that reads "king" on his palm and committing any number of increasingly bizarre gaffes.

      No wonder so many voters say they support none of the leading candidates. If they are to get out of this mess, Lee must immediately give his full cooperation to an independent inquiry in the land development scandal and apologize for any mistakes he made, and Yoon must not waste another minute diffusing the battle within his own party and come up with a clear vision and concrete policies that can offer hope to all Koreans.

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