Eyes on local polls, parties squabble over ‘north wind’

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Eyes on local polls, parties squabble over ‘north wind’

The main opposition Democratic Party criticized President Lee’s Myung-bak’s response to the North’s attack on the Cheonan as a bid to influence the June local elections. Liberal-leaning civic groups also criticized the president’s televised address while conservative groups urged the government to be strong against the North.

DP chairman Chung Sye-kyun said the president is trying to fan the so-called “northern wind,” or anti-North Korea sentiment, “just nine days before the elections.”

“The president is marketing the notion of [national] security using the Cheonan,” he said.

DP floor leader Park Jie-won agreed, saying, “This [the president’s] address is merely for the purpose of elections,” he said. The party’s Seoul mayoral candidate and former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook and Incheon mayoral candidate Song Young-gil held a joint press conference at the National Assembly yesterday saying that Lee’s address was a deliberate political strategy to counter the liberals’ commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the late former president Roh Moo-hyun’s death.

On the other side of the aisle, Grand National Party members said that the DP’s reaction to the president’s response to North Korea was delusional.

“The DP must throw away its victim mentality,” said GNP campaign spokesman Ahn Hyoung-hwan. “The DP is reducing even the state’s highest issue, the president’s measures in an international security case, to election politics.”

A major liberal-leaning civic group, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, held a discussion regarding the results of the Cheonan probe and criticized the results. Another liberal civic group, the Human Rights Solidarity for New Society, said through a petition that Lee’s address was “a planned political event” and that the president should make a personal apology to the public for what happened to the Cheonan.

Conservative groups also held press conferences, urging a strong response to North Korea. The Citizens United for Better Society yesterday announced that South Korea and the international community must threaten to cut off all economic support to the North so it never attempts such aggression again.

Twenty-seven North Korean human rights groups in South Korea came together yesterday in a joint press conference to announce that 20,000 defectors “have come together today to condemn the aggressive brutality brought on by Kim Jong-il and his followers.”

By Cho Jae-eun, Kang Ki-heon [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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