The upcoming by-elections, which will be held on July 30, have once again exposed the absurdity of the so-called “strategic nomination,” a concept which should have been eradicated in our nation.
In Dongjak-B District in Seoul, a person who devoted himself to the district for 14 years lost the party’s nomination to a former deputy mayor of Seoul, who had no connection with the district. It must not have been easy for many people to watch the person whose party did not nominate him as its candidate for the district complain about this wrong and unjust nomination.
Controversy over the nomination for Gwangsan-B District of Gwangju has not subsided either. The reason is that a former director of investigation at Suseo Police Division in Seoul was selected strategically as the candidate for the district. This person was under media scrutiny as a whistleblower who claimed that the then-chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency ordered her to cover up the intervention of government agencies in the 2012 presidential election when she was investigating the allegations. She resigned after the police chief was acquitted of the charges in the first and second trials. Some people criticized this nomination as a hideous hidden deal between her and the party that gave her the candidacy, claiming that she made false accusations in order to get nominated by the party. The nomination was even criticized by the same party members for “halving the value of her testimony of justice”.
There is no party nomination system in the U.S. It is believed that nominations are matters that should be decided by the voters of a district, and that it is against the principles of democracy for parties, rather than the people, to select candidates.
So why do political parties, instead of local residents, nominate candidates in Korea? One reason is that parties select better candidates because people are often ignorant. Another is that parties should prevent local powers from manipulating elections in their areas through their money and networks. This is an unfortunate relic of the past, based on false arguments. No matter what the reasons are, it is right to let the voters of a district determine their candidates for an election.
Strategic nominations are only for strategic battles among political parties. They do not consider which candidates know a district well and can really help it, but only candidates likely to win are chosen. This naturally leads to each party making desperate efforts to recruit well-known big time politicians, leading to the same old people getting nominated election after election, and then these people becoming even bigger political figures, continuing the vicious cycle. There are no opportunities for fresh young political aspirants who are not connected to the leadership of a party. Thus, I have argued for a long time that the power to nominate candidates should be returned to the people.
Fortunately, it has been gradually proven these days that the top-down nomination of candidates by political parties has not been successful. Now, therefore, political parties should take their hands off of the nomination of candidates. In elections for public offices, candidates should be determined by local voters, no matter what the results might be. The general public of Korea has become wiser. It is they who have made Korea an economically prosperous nation today. They are not so ignorant that political parties should determine candidates for them.
The procedure of a primary election is very simple. Some people oppose them because of the cost and inconvenience of having two elections instead of one, and a by-election also costs a significant amount of money. The U.S. uses a two-step electoral process through which a candidate for each party is elected in a primary and, in a short period after that, the final decision is made in a general election at the second Tuesday of November, for over 250 years. I think that this is the most democratic way, since it has succeeded after trial and error in the U.S., the leading democratic nation.
The significance of the primary lies in that it gives opportunities for new, fresh politicians to have a chance to run for office. Political parties should humbly accept the candidates elected by the people and help them win in a general election. If the general election is held a few weeks after the nomination, it can still be a battle among political parties. Then, people will actively participate in voting to make their candidates, for whom they took the trouble to elect as candidates in the primary, win the general election. Through this, I believe, people will have a higher sense of participation and responsibility in that they play a larger role in the political process of the country, the loathsome nomination battle will disappear forever, and everyone can focus only on economic development and working together.
It is often said that while the economy and the culture of Korea have moved ahead, its politics still remains in at a third world standard, holding back its further economic growth. After all, this by-election, which will determine 15 seats of the National Assembly, is taking place because of the corruption of politicians and also because of political parties that nominated such people. Furthermore, 24 out of 44 candidates nominated by political parties have criminal records. How can they really claim that strategic party nominations have been successful?
Now each party should take its hands off from the nomination of candidates, and let local voters determine their candidates on their own and take responsibility for their own choices.
It was very sad to watch Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk withdraw his nomination. Moon wanted an opportunity to explain all kinds of accusations against him at his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly. However, he could not resist the pressure to resign, and had to withdraw voluntarily. A video clip cut out of context from a past lecture at a church suddenly turned him, a grandson of an independence fighter against Japan, into a Japanese collaborator.It will be interesting to see how the confirmation hearings for other nominees for Cabinet will dig up material to grind their honor into the ground. After all, for any nominees for the Cabinet, what matters is not their career records or abilities, but whether or not they can pass their confirmation hearings without too much trouble. I think it was a good choice for the time being to reinstate current Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who has already passed the confirmation hearing.
All of these things happen because there is a fundamental problem within the democratic system. I think Korea is the only country that has a president and a prime minister. A prime minister is the head of a government in a parliamentary system and a president is the head of a government in a presidential system. Abe is not a president but a prime minister, because Japan has a parliamentary system, and Obama is not a prime minister but a president, because the U.S. has a presidential system.
The U.S. has a vice president instead of a prime minister, and the people elect the vice president as a running mate. Because the people directly elect the vice president, Congress would not dare demand a confirmation hearing. Therefore, if we also adopt a vice presidential system, we will not need a parliamentary confirmation hearing for the prime minister. Such confirmation hearings only divide public opinion, waste time, and leave deep scars in many hearts. Even though there is a great backlog of urgent bills to be passed, at the confirmation hearings National Assembly members put all their energy into smearing the nominees from outside their own party, and the government goes adrift with empty seats in the Cabinet. This why we should adopt a vice presidential system. I believe that having a vice president would cost less than having a prime minister.
President Park has achieved brilliant results in economic diplomacy, traveling the world, but the domestic scene is a disaster: the Sewol tragedy, the failure to find Yoo Byung-eun, the Sgt. Lim incident, etc.
In addition, there is the alleged embezzlement of staff salaries by a National Assembly member and an allegation that a Seoul City councilor hired a contract killer. If these claims prove to be true, the party nomination system, which allowed those people to be nominated, is also to blame. The system was originally intended for political parties to select good candidates on behalf of people who did not have enough knowledge to nominate the right candidates, but it has indirectly caused these ridiculous results.
Watching events unfold around the July by-elections, the election seems to be a fight between political parties, like a chess match to decide which candidates for which districts. The parties seek only to pursue their own interests and care only about the number of seats they get. It does not seem so important to them to find the right candidate for the residents of a district. Thus, the vicious cycle of recruiting and recycling big name politicians naturally continues. With the way things are, how can we have new, fresh, young candidates elected for public offices? I think now is the time to return party nomination power to local residents.
A presidential candidate should select a capable person that he or she likes as his or her running mate in a presidential election, and share their political fates together. The vice president will have more inspiration to run for president in the next election only if the president is successful; the vice president becomes a political partner who puts every effort into helping the president and to making the administration successful. It is too difficult for the president alone to deal with all the complex issues alone.
This also would stop some people from criticizing the president unreasonably for having a different opinion, and it would stop senseless demands that a president elected by the people should resign.
If the president resigns now, will they have another election to have a president whom they like? Elected by the people, a vice president can also become a shield for the president, and can speak his or her mind without hesitation and reprehend ministers on behalf of the president. In these complex times, a president badly needs a political partner to share their political fates.
On July 3, Jay Kim attended the Commemoration Ceremony for the “64th Anniversary of the First Battle of UN Forces and Memorial Service for the Fallen Soldiers of Task Force Smith”. The ceremony was held by the city of Osan at the UN Forces First Battle Monument in Osan, Gyeonggi.
Along with the mayor of Osan, the commander of the Eighth United States Army, and the governor of Gyeonggi, Kim gave a memorial speech at the event. There was also a speech from a member of Task Force Smith, Norman Mathews.
During this event, the copperplate, which was lost in 1963, of the old memorial monument was returned to the city.
The mayor of Osan, Kwak Sang-wook, said in his speech, “We will never forget the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers of Task Force Smith who fought at Jukmiryeong to defend freedom and peace,” and “to honor their sacrifice and promote Korea-U.S. relations, we are building a memorial park at Jukmiryeong, where a commemoration tree will be planted for each member of Task Force Smith.
Task Force Smith had its first battle against North Korean forces, at Jukmiryeong as part of the U.N. forces on July 5, 1950 during the Korean War. While 181 members of Task Force Smith died at the battle, it achieved a significant success in delaying the advancement of North Korean forces.
On July 2, Jay Kim attended a signboard hanging ceremony for Korea Importers Association to celebrate the renaming of the organization, which was founded in 1970.
In his interview with News Y on July 1, Jay Kim discussed the controversies concerning the recent resignation of two prime minister candidates, which led to the reinstatement of the current prime minister, and other issues on the vetting and confirmation processes for high offices of the Korean government in comparison with such processes in the U.S.