A political war of words breaks out

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A political war of words breaks out

The simmering feud between the Blue House and Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won boiled over yesterday as the presidential office called the opposition heavyweight an irresponsible liar.

“Park is the floor leader of the largest opposition party, but his lies have gone too far,” Kim Hee-jung, a spokeswoman for President Lee Myung-bak, said yesterday, carrying the Blue House’s battle with the acting head of the Democratic Party to a second day.

Park perplexed the Blue House on Tuesday by saying that the presidential office had come up with a new approach to confirmation hearings for its next prime minister nominee: to hold one public hearing dedicated to the candidate’s professional qualifications and a separate session - behind closed doors - to ask about ethics and possible skeletons in his closet.

Park said the presidential office made the proposal on Monday and he rejected it.

Park had also enraged the Blue House by showing skepticism about the purpose of Lee’s recent visit to Russia. During his meeting with party officials on Friday, Park spoke cynically about the trip.

“Former U.S. Ambassador to Korea [Donald] Gregg has said that Russia’s report on the Cheonan’s sinking is different from the conclusion reached by the South Korean government,” Park said. “Lee is now making an unplanned trip to Russia, and what a great coincidence it is. I’m not sure if I should trust the Blue House’s explanation that Lee was going to Russia to build friendship.”

“It is regrettable to see the acting head of a political party speak so irresponsibly,” Kim said yesterday. “He should apologize for his irresponsible remarks and act more responsibly from now on.”

The Grand National Party also issued a statement yesterday, criticizing Park.

“After the Blue House denied Park’s claim about the confirmation hearings, Park soon changed his words and said he heard the proposal from a ruling party figure,” said GNP spokesman Ahn Hyung-hwan. “He is leaking unconfirmed rumors and changes his words when a problem arises. We wonder why Park was repeating such an obsolete political practice.”

Won Hee-ryong, the GNP’s secretary-general, echoed the criticism. He said Park’s cynicism about the Lee administration’s plan to send 5,000 ton of rice to the North as part of a flood relief package was extremely “insulting.”

Park, on Tuesday, said the 5,000 tons were too little to help the North, sneering that “it’s not even enough to be sent to Unification Minister Hyun In-taek’s house.”

Once the second-most powerful man in the liberal Kim Dae-jung administration, Park urged Lee to make a bold decision and send a minimum of 500,000 tons.

He was also critical of the GNP’s demands for an apology. He said the Blue House was reacting too sensitively, even though he had issued a clarification about his remarks on the confirmation hearings.

The Democratic Party also urged the GNP to stop attacking its leader.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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