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Curtain Rises on Presidential Race: What Can the Candidates Offer Us to See?
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The presidential race for Korea's 18th presidential election has just started. Five contenders in the ruling Saenuri Party have officially launched their primary campaigns last weekend, while eight candidates in the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) are going into competition, starting with a TV debate today.

Even Ahn Cheol-soo, a sort of 'off-track runner' in this race and Dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, seems to have kicked off primary race activities: he has published his book, Ahn Cheol-soo's Thoughts, and is to make a TV appearance tonight through 'Healing Camp', a popular show on a nationwide network, SBS.

Saenuri Party's race will, in all probability, start with Park Geun-hye and then end with Park Geun-hye: it is likely to end up being a 'competition in name only.' This is not at all sound for the people as well as for Saenuri Party that is going for a comeback to the power. Let us look back the 2007 competition in the old Grand National Party.

At the ruling Saenuri Party's Yeouido building, a pledging ceremony was held for candidates to vouch for clean and fair competition to gain the people's understanding. Yim Tae-hee (from right to left, according to the election number), Park Geun-hye, Kim Tae-ho, Ahn Sang-soo and Kim Moon-soo are holding hands.

The competition between then-contenders, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, not only brought out dynamism in the race but also helped voters choose, as the candidates continually tested each other.

If Park should now focus only on safely winning without leaving any scars behind, she may end up creating an 'obstinate' image without reaping any actual benefits as she had in 2007 competition.

The four 'non-Park candidates,' since they are in competition, must refuse to play a supporting role in a 'crowning campaign for Park Geun-hye' and fight as fiercely as possible: this is their duty for voters.

DUP is in an even more strained position compared to its opposition Saenuri Party: the prospect of the presidential election will be gloomy unless DUP should succeed in promoting its visibility among and support by the people through the competition.

The main opposition DUP's candidates in the primary race: Cho Kyung-tae, Sohn Hak-kyu, Kim Doo-kwan, Moon Jae-in, Kim Yong-hwan, Chung Se-kyun and Park Jun-yeong (from left to right). Candidates are clasping hands and greeting people at a Women's Politics Camp at Daemyung Vivaldi Park, Hongcheon, on July 19.

This is why the eight candidates must find a way for the party as a whole to win. This will be a way to secure individual candidates' winning. The attitude toward Ahn Cheol-soo, another variable in DUP competition, should be no different. If the candidates are too conscious of Ahn, their own competition will be reduced to a 'minor league.'

The candidates must remember that the inner strength should come before any talk of a pan-opposition candidate. Meanwhile, Ahn, as he took one step further to the presidential election, needs to listen to the voice of the people firsthand.

Book publication or TV appearance may be a good publicity act, however, neither can be a medium for true communication. If Ahn has made a decision to be in the race, he should voice out his visions and what he can do under a proper testing environment, be it a press conference or a debate.

Needless to say, the presidential election at the end of this year is very important. The result can change the future of Korea in the next five-year, or even a longer period. Candidates in this election are obliged to clearly state what kind of a nation they would like to build and what policies and alternatives they can offer to build it.

To talk about the future, they also need to talk about their 'past.' Whoever it may be, whether that person has the right quality and values will be as important as what kind of policies and visions he or she has.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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