The opposition United Future Party (UFP) filed a complaint with prosecutors Wednesday over ruling Democratic Party (DP) Secretary General Yoon Ho-jung's derogatory remarks about the UFP's Chief Campaign Manager Kim Chong-in. Earlier, Yoon compared Kim to Don Quixote, UFP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn to his horse Rocinante, and the opposition's campaign committee co-chairman Park Hyeong-joon to Sancho Panza. Yoon ridiculed Kim as a warrior on a quixotic crusade to impeach President Moon Jae-in.
After attacking the UFP for "spreading a virus of slurs on top of the coronavirus" ahead of the April 15 parliamentary elections, the DP has relished its war of words. DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan raised controversy by saying, "Every time I visit Busan, I wonder why it is still such a pitiful city." A DP candidate said that South Korea has fired more missiles than North Korea did. Such remarks are certainly aimed at rallying support from liberals, but will only encourage public disdain towards politics.
The opposition UFP has been attacking DP candidates as "collaborators or assault troops for the Blue House." On the party's YouTube channel, the UFP made sarcastic comments about President Moon, saying, "He can be served eco-friendly free meals for a while after serving his term because any prison in the country would offer them free of charge."
Even Chairman Hwang got involved with a slip of the tongue about people who accessed the "Nth room," where violent sex crimes were distributed through chat rooms on the Telegram instant messaging app.
As direct contact with voters is difficult during the coronavirus outbreak, the campaign should be a contest of ideas. But as election day approaches, an exchange of scurrilous words — and populist pledges — are dominating the campaign.
An increasing number of people are suffering from the coronavirus outbreak, and their anxieties and fears for their livelihoods deepen each day. Negative campaigns accompanied by slander of rivals cannot help the Korean economy stay afloat. Mudslinging, indiscriminate accusations, and incitements based on ideology and regionalism only breed political hatred.
As the campaign turns uglier than ever before, voters should take note and be more prudent. They must focus on the campaign promises, platforms and integrity of each candidate. Their votes will determine the future of a country in crisis.