Park pounces on Ahn’s chaebol past

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Park pounces on Ahn’s chaebol past

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Park Geun-hye, the conservative presidential front-runner, levied rare criticism at liberal independent Ahn Cheol-soo yesterday over his double standard on conglomerates.

Ahn faced controversy Monday as revelations were made concerning his efforts to seek leniency for SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won during his 2003 trial for accounting fraud to the tune of 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion).

As his action drew a stark contrast to what he wrote in his latest book, Ahn issued a statement and expressed his regret.

Asked what she thinks about the situation, Park said yesterday, “That is exactly what we want to fix.”

She also stressed that “[handing down stern punishments on economic crimes committed by the conglomerates] is one of the key concepts of economic democratization.”

Economic democratization is one of the catchphrases that she uses for her presidential campaign. Reform of conglomerates is a key theme.

Park’s remarks toward Ahn were rare. The presidential front-runner of the ruling Saenuri Party has refrained from directly attacking the software mogul-turned-scholar since he has not officially declared his bid.

Until now, she even made some favorable remarks. She once said, “It would be nice to work with him.”

It appeared that Ahn’s soaring popularity could affect Park. After publishing a book and making a TV appearance, Ahn’s rating rose quickly to threaten her. Ahn was leading in last week’s public opinion poll by Realmeter.

Other officials in the Park campaign also attacked Ahn over his view on conglomerates. “You will soon see that he is just pretending to be a saint,” Kim Chong-in, a co-head of Park’s campaign, said Monday.

The Park campaign is also paying more attention to Ahn’s sudden popularity, particularly the people’s disappointment with the business-as-usual politics.

The largest liberal opposition Democratic United Party watched the situation involving Ahn with folded arms.

“Ahn is now facing the real test,” said Representative Woo Sang-ho in an interview with PBS radio. “If he manages to pass it well, he can make an opportunity out of a crisis. If he fails to react properly, he can fall. All possibilities are open.”

He also said it is natural for the presidential contenders to face scrutiny and explain their positions.

“Many showed concerns about Ahn because of the lack of scrutiny toward him,” Woo said. “And I think the process now begins for Ahn. It is interesting to watch how he explains his vision based on what he has done with his life.”

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

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