Editorial; Candidates' Criminal Records

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 2, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Editorial; Candidates' Criminal Records


Parliamentary elections represent a process through which people delegate their sovereign powers to representatives they elect. People have the right to know whether those aspiring to become their delegates are fit enough to represent them. Proof of sound character and moral fitness is imperative to test their suitability. Disclosures of their criminal records must be regarded as mandatory for anyone running for such public office.

Against this backdrop, the significance must be measured of the National Election Commission's landmark decision to disclose this week the candidates' criminal records for the parliamentary election on April 13. The contribution it will make is immense for the testing of their credentials, integrity and moral caliber as deputies of sovereign people to serve at the legislature.

The election watchdog agency's new measure will lay bare all the records of candidates' ``sentences requiring imprisonment'' in particular. Whether the sentences were served, suspended or pardoned will not affect the disclosure rule. Even criminal records deleted long ago by special pardon or a rights reinstatement decree will be made available to the electorates.

Such a release of criminal records in terms of its effect assuredly goes against the spirit of modern law which prescribes that no one should be punished twice for a single offense. This is sure to have not a de jure but a de facto ``double jeopardy'' effect on the individuals concerne , by subjecting them again to the ordeals already experienced. However, it can hardly be denied that the public good and justice the records exposure will serve to promote far outweigh the importance of candidates' individual rights to withhold personal information prejudicial to their interests.

The NEC's propriety ought to be appreciated here of its prudent decision to exclude from the release cases of suspended sentences as well as fines or penalty payments for minor offenses. Some advocates of the disclosure remain steadfastly against any exclusion. This perfectionist stand does not adequately square with the real world of imperfect people and their politics.

Inordinately idealist political prescriptions more often than not turn out counterproductive to the addressing of political ills. The polls are not meant to elect a morally, flawless superman with no roots in the world of imperfect human beings. If that be, he may not indeed be a right representative to stand for nitty-gritty issues pertinent to the life of ordinary individuals.

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