Gwangju suicide opens up opposition can of worms

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Gwangju suicide opens up opposition can of worms

The suicide of a campaign volunteer for a prominent Democratic United Party politician earlier this week in Gwangju, the party’s traditional stronghold, has rocked the party’s credibility with a little over a month until April 11 general elections.

“I’m worried that Gwangju will be branded as a city where elections are rigged,” said Kim Yeon-hui, 52, who lives in the Dong District of downtown Gwangju.

On Monday, the Gwangju Election Commission agents received a tip that illegal campaign activity was occurring at the public library in Dong District and sent agents to enquire. They met the head of the library, a 65-year old surnamed Cho, who was a campaign volunteer for the DUP’s Park Joo-sun, a 63-year-old former prosecutor who was seeking a nomination to run for a third term in the district.

But instead of answering the election commission agents’ questions, Cho bolted and ended up jumping out of one of the library’s fifth-floor windows. He died from the fall.

Representative Park said afterward he had no personal relationship with Cho and had not requested his support during the primary.

Because the DUP had promised a clean slate of candidates for the upcoming elections, Cho’s suicide and the news of alleged campaign hanky-panky was a double blow to Gwangju citizens.

“Until recently, I’ve never thought, ‘It’s embarrassing to live in Dong District,’” said Kim, a 59-year-old restaurant manager in Chungjangno, a bustling commercial street in Dong District.

“While there was a lot of talk about elections being manipulated by the government and illegal activities, there was no incident where a person was driven to death,” said Yoon, 37, who owns a fried chicken restaurant on the same street.

Several Gwangju civic organizations recently held a press conference at the DUP headquarters in Gwangju, branding the situation, “A tragedy born from the rigging of elections that occurs whenever a DUP candidate is nominated.”

Citizens are bracing for systematic rigging of elections nominations by the local government. The head of the Dong District, Yoo Tae-myung, is currently being investigated by the police for gathering 13 leaders of the district to support Park in January, which has also raised suspicions of nomination rigging.

By Yoo Ji-ho, Choi Kyeong-ho []
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