DUP vows to put Park’s credentials to a test

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DUP vows to put Park’s credentials to a test

The largest opposition Democratic United Party yesterday vowed to scrutinize Park Geun-hye’s qualifications, stepping up its attacks on her historical views, corruption scandals involving her associates and the key campaign pledge of economic democratization.

In a radio interview, DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan showed yesterday no reservations in criticizing Park. The 60-year-old daughter of the former President Park Chung Hee won the Saenuri Party’s primary on Monday to represent the conservative ruling party in the December presidential election.

“Park has several weaknesses,” Lee told PBC radio yesterday. “And mainly, she has a weak historical awareness.”

Lee particularly attacked Park for having avoided talking about her father’s rule of the country.

“President Park Chung Hee destroyed this country’s constitutional order twice,” Lee said.

“He did so once with his May 16 military coup in 1961 and again with the October Restoration [in 1972 through which he assumed dictatorial power]. She treated issuing an apology for her father’s destruction of the constitutional order and evaluating the history as issues of the past, but that’s wrong.”

It was widely anticipated that one of the top challenges for Park would be overcoming the controversy surrounding her father.

Park Chung Hee is one of the most controversial leaders in Korea. Many conservatives praise him for Korea’s modernization and industrialization, while liberals criticize him for his dictatorship and anti-democratic rule.

During her first presidential bid in the Grand National Party’s primary in 2007, Park called the May 16, 1961, coup in which her father rose to power “a revolution to save the country,” but she toned down the evaluation a bit this time. In a debate last month, she called it “unavoidable, yet his best possible choice.”

She has also maintained the stance on her father’s self-coup in 1972, referred to as the October Yushin, or October Restoration, by saying that history should judge it. The nation’s liberals have questioned her awareness of history for defending her father’s dictatorial rule.

Lee also said Park was surrounded with people who lack morality and she should present a plan on “how to get rid of them.”

While Lee didn’t specifically point out Park’s associates, her two siblings have been involved in some controversy.

Her relationship with her younger sister Park Geun-ryeong remained sour for 22 years since their falling out over the ownership of the Yukyoung Foundation, their mother’s legacy. Park’s brother-in-law is currently in jail for having defamed her.

Her younger brother, Ji-man, and his wife were also accused of being involved in the savings bank scandal.

Another issue involved pastor Choi Tae-min. Since he first met with Park in 1975 to establish a missionary group, Choi was one of Park’s closest associates until his death in 1994. Choi’s son-in-law continued to serve Park as a butler even after his death.

Lee also asked Park to be clearer about her key campaign pledge of economic democratization.

“She is talking about economic democratization, but when you look at it, she was defending the conglomerates,” Lee said. “The contents such as keeping the circular investment system of conglomerate affiliates are different from what she says in her slogans.”

Lee also criticized Park for her handling of the issues involving a scholarship foundation, which owns 30 percent of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation and 100 percent of stock in the Busan Ilbo newspaper.

Busan-based businessman Kim Ji-tae established the Buil Scholarship Foundation in 1958 for talented students, but he handed it over to the military regime of Park Chung Hee in 1962. Kim and his family later revealed that he was forced to surrender it.

In 1982, the foundation changed its name to the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation and Park served as the head of its board of directors for years until she stepped down from the post in February 2005.

While she said her ties with the foundation were severed completely, the DUP head criticized her handling of the issue.

“She served as its chair for more than a decade, and she appointed all the current board members,” Lee said yesterday. “It is irresponsible for her to argue that she has nothing to do with the foundation.”

Lee also said Park should give it back to Kim’s family because her father forcibly took it away from them. “Or it should be transformed into a public service corporation and returned to the community of Busan,” Lee said.

The DUP has already established a “Park Geun-hye verification task force” and begun combing through remarks made by her in the past.

Other DUP members also vowed to scrutinize her further. “For the past decade, Park has changed her words many times,” said Representative Yun Kwan-seok.

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

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