Park’s Europe trip drawing huge media attention

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Park’s Europe trip drawing huge media attention

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Former Grand National Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye is scheduled to leave Thursday for Europe as a special envoy of President Lee Myung-bak. Political observers said she has clearly emerged as one of most powerful presidential hopefuls given the number of press that signed up to join her on the trip.

Though this is not the first time that Park has traveled overseas as Lee’s special envoy, political observers said 22 members of the press, including major daily newspapers, broadcasters and Internet sites signed up for the trip. Previously, 10 press members joined Park when she visited China in January 2008 and only two members of the press accompanied her to Europe in August 2009, when she travelled as Lee’s special envoy, according to Park’s aides.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which prepared Park’s Europe trip schedule, were stunned at the unexpected number of press joining Park’s trip,” said an aide of GNP Representative Lee Jung-hyun. Lee will also accompany Park.

In the case of former GNP Chairman Chung Mong-joon, another rising GNP presidential candidate, who visited China in March 2010 as GNP Chairman, 10 press members joined his trip.

Observers said Park’s trip reflected her political position as a future leader who tops presidential polls.

Others said Park could use her Europe trip as an opportunity to test how international leaders treat her as the leading presidential candidate.

Park will visit the Netherlands, Portugal and Greece and Park’s aides said she will be busy, meeting nearly 20 senior-ranking government officials of the three countries.

When Park first met Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2008, she offered her greetings in Chinese, according to Park’s aides.

Park is also known for expressing her sincere gratitude to leaders of foreign countries that helped Korea in the past.

“I’ll be visiting Europe’s three countries as a special envoy of the president,” Park wrote on her Twitter page. “Of the three countries, there are countries that fought in the Korean War, provided emergency aid and vaccines when we were hit by foot and mouth disease and helped us to rescue crew members of [hijacked vessel] Samho Jewelry. They also helped the evacuation of Koreans in Libya. We are all thankful to these countries.”

Political observers said Park seems to be gearing up for the 2012 presidential election as she has been active in expressing her positions on various issues on the Korean Peninsula to the foreign press.


By Kim Mi-ju, Baek Il-hyun [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
박근혜 특사 순방 23개 언론사 동행
2009년엔 2개사만 취재 … “외교부도 깜짝 놀라”

10→2→23. 한나라당 박근혜 전 대표가 이명박 대통령의 특사로 해외를 방문할 때 동행 취재에 나선 언론사 숫자의 변화다. 박 전 대표는 2008년 1월엔 중국을, 2009년 8월엔 유럽연합(EU)·헝가리·덴마크를 방문했다. 이때는 각각 10곳, 2곳의 언론사가 취재에 나섰다.

 그런데 그가 오는 28일부터 9박11일간 네덜란드·포르투갈·그리스를 방문하는 데 동행하겠다고 나선 언론사는 23곳에 달한다. 중앙 일간지와 경제지, 공중파 방송 3사 외에도 케이블 뉴스채널과 인터넷 매체까지 박 대표의 특사외교를 취재하겠다고 나선 것이다. 박 전 대표를 수행하는 이정현 의원실 관계자는 “특사 일정을 짜는 외교통상부조차 예상 밖의 취재단 규모에 깜짝 놀라더라”고 말했다. 정몽준 전 대표가 당 대표 시절인 2010년 3월 중국을 방문했을 때 취재기자를 보낸 언론사는 10여 곳이었다.

 박 전 대표의 유럽행에 대규모 취재단이 동행하게 된 것과 관련해 정치권에선 “차기 대선 예비후보 중 40% 안팎의 지지율로 압도적 1위를 달리고 있는 박 전 대표의 위상을 보여주는 것”이라는 해석이 나오고 있다. 박 전 대표는 이번 방문 기간 동안 20여 명의 외국 정상·장관급 인사를 만날 예정이다.

 박 전 대표는 유럽 3개국 방문을 마치고 난 다음 이명박 대통령과 만난다고 청와대 관계자는 전했다. 4·27 재·보선에서 한나라당이 패하면 여권에선 내년 총선·대선에 대한 위기감이 커질 것인 만큼 이 대통령과 박 전 대표의 만남은 주목을 끌 것으로 보인다.

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