Saenuri membership roster leaked to primary hopefuls

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Saenuri membership roster leaked to primary hopefuls

The fallout from the selling of the Saenuri Party's membership roster worsened yesterday following a media report that the roster had made its way to some candidates who sought the conservative ruling party's nomination in the April legislative election.

A Saenuri Party official was arrested last week on charges of selling the party's roster of 2.2 million members to a spam message distributor, prompting the ruling party to launch an internal probe.

JTBC, the cable TV network of the JoongAng Media Group, reported Tuesday that the list was also provided to several candidates who ran in the party's primary for the April 11 legislative elections.

"Lee, the suspect, testified to the prosecution that he had provided the list to several candidates," said a source from the law enforcement authority. "About 10 candidates got their hands on the roster."

The Suwon District Prosecutors' Office also confirmed that it handed over the case to the team in charge of election crimes in order to verify Lee's testimony.

Following the report, the Saenuri Party made frantic efforts to downplay the seriousness of the leak because a rigged primary could be a political nightmare for the ruling party that barely managed to control 150 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

The party is also concerned that the leak could affect the presidential primary ahead of the December election.

According to Representative Park Min-shik, who has been leading the internal probe on the leak, eight candidates who sought party nominations obtained the roster.

Of the eight, two actually ran in the April 11 legislative elections on Saenuri Party tickets one in the primary and another in the strategic nomination.

While the strategic nominee who ran in Ulsan actually won the election to become a first-term lawmaker, the other candidate, who ran in North Chungcheong, lost to the Democratic United Party rival, Park said.

Kim Jun-hwan ran in the Heungdeok B District in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, but lost. Lee Che-ik was nominated strategically in Ulsan's Namgu A District and won the election. Saenuri Secretary General Suh Byung-soo said the incumbent lawmaker in Ulsan would be held accountable if any irregularities were confirmed through the internal probe.

During the nomination process, most Lee Myung-bak loyalists failed to win spots, while Park Geun-hye supporters were largely nominated.

But Representative Park, the head of the internal probe, said the candidates who obtained the list shared no factional or regional ties.

He also said the roster's power appeared to have lesser political value than expected because many of them failed to win nominations even though they had obtained the roster.

While the party leadership frantically tried to control the damage, the fallout of the leak already spread to the presidential primary as Representative Lee Jae-oh, a key Lee loyalist and a presidential contender of the Saenuri Party, attacked presidential frontrunner Park Geun-hye over the incident.

In a radio interview yesterday, he said the emergency leadership that managed the primary and the April legislative election campaign must take responsibility.

"Those who used the roster to become a lawmaker or a party chairman must assume full responsibility and step down," he said.

At the time, Park Geun-hye was the emergency chairman of the Saenuri Party. Park has remained tight-lipped about the leak.

The Democratic United Party also used the incident to attack the Saenuri Party. "What has been revealed so far could be the tip of the iceberg," said Park Yong-jin, the DUP spokesman.

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

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