Park Geun-hye hints at mayoral election support

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Park Geun-hye hints at mayoral election support

Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party, urged the ruling party yesterday to change its stance on welfare programs, hinting that she would support the GNP’s efforts to hold onto the Seoul mayoral seat in the upcoming by-election depending on what the party leadership decides.

Whether the political heavyweight, known as the “queen of elections” for her outsized influence on conservative voters, will support the GNP’s campaign actively or not has been a topic of intense interest in political circles.

Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon resigned last week after failing to garner the minimum voter turnout on a referendum designed to scale back the city’s free school meal program. The by-election to fill the vacancy left by Oh is set to take place on Oct. 26.

“The priority is the party’s efforts to redefine its direction and policies for Korea’s welfare system to create an official platform,” Park said yesterday in response to reporters’ questions about whether she would support the GNP in the mayoral by-election.

Asked if she would make an endorsement after the party decides its platform on welfare policies, Park said: “Before talking about anything and everything, it is necessary to let the people know what the GNP’s positions and arguments are.”

Park was also critical of Oh’s political gamble with the school lunch referendum. “Each local government should have decided on the school lunch program depending on its situation,” Park said. “It was not something to attach such a serious political meaning and to risk the mayoral post.”

While conservatives in the GNP have fiercely opposed expanded welfare policies pushed by liberals, calling them populist, Park has said the time has come for Korea to find a new direction on welfare.

She reiterated yesterday that it was necessary to prioritize welfare programs based on fiscal circumstances and promoted her own views on welfare of pre-emptively providing tailor-made services to people in need.

She, however, warned against the opposition Democratic Party’s campaign to promise free medical and child care services in addition to half-price tuition. “It is desirable to expand welfare programs, but it is unrealistic to argue that everything should be free,” she said.

Park also refuted some conservative criticism for failing to support Oh in the referendum. “I have said what my thinking is on the referendum,” she said. “It was a matter to be decided by the residents, not the politicians.”

Park’s comments yesterday appeared to signal that GNP members seeking the Seoul mayoral post would need to align themselves with Park in order to win her coveted support.

The GNP will have workshops for lawmakers today and tomorrow, and an intense discussion to decide the party’s official position on welfare programs is expected.

Meanwhile, Representative Won Hye-young of the DP emerged as an unexpected frontrunner in the mayoral by-election. “The party’s Roh Moo-hyun loyalists and senior lawmakers agreed that Won should become the candidate if former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook doesn’t run,” a senior DP lawmaker told the JoongAng Ilbo. The source said DP bigwigs have held meetings and urged Won to ready his bid.


By Ser Myo-ja, Park Shin-hong [myoja@jongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

박근혜, 서울시장 선거 나서나
“당이 먼저 복지 입장 정리를”
당론 정리 땐 보선 지원 시사


한나라당 박근혜 전 대표는 31일 서울시장 보궐선거 지원 여부에 대해 “우리나라 복지에 대한 당의 방향과 정책이 재정립돼 당론이 정리되는 게 우선 필요하다”고 말했다. 국회 본회의 참석에 앞서 기자들이 ‘지원 유세는 당론 결정 이후에 가능한가’라고 묻자 “모든 얘기를 하기에 앞서 당의 입장을 정리하고 무엇을 주장하는가를 국민들이 확실하게 알 필요가 있다”며 이같이 답했다. 한나라당이 복지문제와 관련해 당론을 정리하면 서울시장 보선을 지원할 수 있다는 뜻이다.

 - 무상급식 주민투표를 어떻게 보나.

 “무상급식을 하는 지자체도 있고, 각 지자체 형편에 따라 하면 되는 데 너무 과도하게 정치적 의미를 부여했다. 시장직까지 걸 사안은 아니었다.”

 -민주당은 보편적 복지의 승리라는데.

 “이번 투표 결과를 아전인수(我田引水·제 논에 물 대기) 격으로 확대해석해선 안 된다. 앞으로 복지를 확충해 가는 방향은 맞지만 뭐든지 복지는 무상으로 해야 한다고 주장하는 것은 문제고 실현 가능하지도 않다. 재정 여건에 따라 복지 우선순위를 정하는 게 중요하고, 그렇게 해야 한국형 맞춤 복지가 가능하다.”

 - 박 전 대표가 주민투표를 돕지 않았다고 서운해하는 목소리도 있는데.

 “ (주민투표는) 주민들이 결정할 문제지 정치권이 할 일은 아니 다.”

 박 전 대표는 10·26 서울시장 보궐선거가 무상급식 주민투표의 2라운드가 되면 안 된다는 취지에서 이런 말을 했다는 게 주변의 해석이다. 한 핵심 측근은 “서울시장 보선이 또다시 무상급식 찬반 구도로 흘러가면 선거 자체가 어려워질 뿐 아니라, 아이들 밥 먹이는 문제를 정치 쟁점화시키고 싶어 하지 않는 박 전 대표도 지원 유세를 하기 곤란하게 된다”고 말했다. “박 전 대표가 민주당의 ‘무상 시리즈’를 반대하는 것은 명백하지만, 그렇다고 무상급식을 망국적 포퓰리즘으로 공격한 오세훈 전 서울시장의 주장도 공감하지 않는다”는 게 이 측근의 얘기다.

 홍준표 대표도 서울시장 보선에서 무상급식 논쟁이 재연되는 것은 막아야 한다고 주장해온 만큼 복지정책에 대한 당의 입장을 정하는 작업에 착수할 가능성이 크다.

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