An official of the National Election Commission examines ballots for the April 11 National Assembly elections at the election watchdog’s building in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon
By Lee Tae-hoon
With only one month left before the crucial National Assembly elections, both ruling and opposition parties revealed new campaign pledges Sunday in what appears to be a desperate attempt to woo support.
An official of the governing Saenuri Party said his party was considering seeking a revision of the Labor Standards Law to reduce the maximum allowable overtime hours per week to 10, down from the current 12.
“The Saenuri Party plans to reduce the overtime limit to 10 from 2013,” the party official said. “We expect the measure to be gradually implemented starting in the public sector and large corporations.”
The main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) went further announcing a set of media reform measures, including one barring the government from exerting influence over the appointment of executives, as a part of its campaign promises.
“The DUP strongly supports the strike by media workers and urge the immediate resignations of media company CEOs who achieved their posts through influence peddling under the Lee Myung-bak administration,” DUP Chairwoman Han Myeong-sook said in a meeting at the National Assembly.
“We will revise laws in order to guarantee the political neutrality of the press and make sure those in power will never be able to damage the partiality and freedom of the media.”
She said the reform plans include, “the restoration of the media’s political neutrality and freedom of expression,“ and restructuring of new general programming cable TV channels that the DUP views as a by-product of “political favoritism.’”
Observers say the two parties are gearing up for an all out campaign as they have nearly completed their lists of candidates to run in the April 11 elections that will serve as a litmus test of public sentiment and perhaps herald a change in the political landscape in the final year of the Lee government.
The party that clinches victory in the parliamentary elections is expected to have the upper hand in December’s presidential poll.
This is the first time in 20 years that the two major elections are held in the same year.
The Saenuri Party has been trying to distance itself from Lee, whose overall approval rating remains below 30 percent, in an attempt to attract voters unhappy with the unpopular President.
It has even softened its conservative stance on Pyongyang as Lee’s hard-line policy has born no fruit in easing inter-Korean tensions and the denuclearization of North Korea.
Meanwhile, the latest opinion polls show people think the DUP will secure a majority in the 300-seat unicameral Assembly. It has successfully formed an alliance with the leftist minor Unified Progressive Party (UPP).
The two opposition parties reached an agreement to field unified candidates in 76 electoral districts through open poll competitions.
It remains to be seen how the public will respond to the liberal alliance’s pledge to scrap the free trade agreement with the United States (KORUS FTA) and a naval base project on the southern island of Jeju.
The DUP initiated both the KORUS FTA and the naval base project under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, but is now demanding the government scrap them for fear of losing the support of liberal voters.