419 candidates, $870 billion. Promises or lies?

By 임정요
  • Published : Apr 11, 2016 - 13:19
  • Updated : Apr 11, 2016 - 13:19

The sheer scale of funds estimated to realize the pledges of parliamentary candidates is shedding doubt on the plausibility of the promises and the sincerity of the candidates.

According to analysis by local daily Joongang Ilbo, it would take the future 20th National Assembly more than 1 quadrillion won ($870 billion) to carry out their pledges, far exceeding this year’s national budget set for 380 trillion won -- which is already a 10 trillion won increase from the year before. 

National Assembly (Yonhap)
The Joongang Ilbo, together with Korea Manifesto Center, gathered the data by requesting from the 935 candidates running for a seat in the National Assembly their five core policies and the budget required for them. The request had a less-than-half answer rate of 44.8 percent.

Article 66 of the current election law stipulates that, unlike presidential elections, candidates in a general election are not obligated to produce printed policy booklets or state their intended mode of securing funds.

Although only 419 out of 935 candidates gave answers, their combined estimated budget already went over the predetermined national budget of 380 trillion won.

The 419 candidates said they would need 407 trillion won in total to carry out their regional policies, which mostly concerned construction of social overhead capital projects, like highways, railways and subways, while also including large-sized themed parks and tourism districts.

Candidate Kim Yung-rok from The Minjoo Party of Korea aspired to build an underwater high speed rail link connecting South Jeolla Province and Jejudo Island and a railway linking the seaport town Mokpo and the green tea town Boseong.

Kim said his policies alone would require funding of 22.6 trillion won. Regarding how he would secure the money to realize his plans, Kim hoped to push his plans as national projects upon winning election.

Kim’s rival candidate Yoon Young-il of the People’s Party did not submit his policy budget.

Apart from regional policies, if national policies were also included in the picture -- rosy but unrealistic policies such as free nationwide high school education and additional free medical care for children under the age of 15 -- the total budget would stretch to 1.017 quadrillion won.

The reason for the fuss about the money issues is that all this staggering increase in budget would translate to increases in taxation.

Lee Gwang-jae, secretary general of the Korea Manifesto Center, argued for a revision to the current election law. “The Public Official Election Act should be revised to obligate the aspiring members of the National Assembly to clearly set out their planned time of policy implementation and their ways of securing funding,” Lee said.

Yoon Jong-bin, professor of politics and foreign affairs at Myungji University, also called for establishing a monitoring body under the central election committee to discern the veracity of the policies proposed by candidates.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (