Safety dominates election agenda

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 13, 2014 - 21:10
  • Updated : May 13, 2014 - 21:56
Trucks fitted with stages for the June 4 local elections await final preparations in a lot at a company specializing in election campaign vehicles in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, Tuesday. The vehicles will be fitted with banners promoting candidates and provide stages at rallies. (Yonhap)
The country’s two main political parties are pushing safety-related agendas for the June 4 local elections in an attempt to address the heightened public anxiety in the wake of the ferry disaster.

On Tuesday, the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy unveiled election pledges focused on safety issues. The pledges came as the NPAD selected Song Ha-jin as its North Jeolla Province governor candidate, completing the two sides’ lineup for the 17 metropolitan and provincial races.

The two parties, however, differed in that the ruling party’s emphasis is placed on establishing a new control tower for responding to disasters, while that of the NPAD focused more on overhauling related systems and regulations.

The ruling party’s safety-related pledges include establishing a control tower, tightening regulations on former civil servants’ gaining employment in organizations related to their former duties, and introducing tougher safety standards.

Following the April 16 ferry accident, the lack of a single control tower for overseeing disaster-related actions and corruption arising from bureaucrats in high-level posts at organizations related to their duties in civil service have been partially blamed for the accident and the poor initial response.

The main opposition party promises to introduce mandatory safety training at schools on all levels and review all safety-related regulations that have been eased in the recent past.

In addition, the NPAD is hoping to highlight safety issues in the upcoming elections to gain leverage over the ruling party.

“Politics exists to improve the people’s lives, and for the safety of the people. A government and politics that cannot protect the people must not exist,” NPAD’s newly elected floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun said in announcing the party’s pledges Tuesday. She said the Sewol tragedy revealed the incompetence of the current administration.

In other areas, the two parties are offering wider social security measures including Saenuri Party’s free vaccinations for seniors and the NPAD’s idea of providing subsidies for jobseekers and small merchants whose businesses have failed.

By Choi He-suk (