Mobile voting begets new scandal

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Mobile voting begets new scandal

The Democratic United Party has been caught in its own mobile voting trap as the political experiment fed a money-for-nomination scandal as much as it encouraged young voters’ participation.

Introduced in January for the first time in the DUP’s chairmanship election, the mobile voting system is a new way to cast ballots.

After a voter receives a text message, the recipient can cast a ballot after verifying identification. Although the system attracted the participation of many young voters with its convenience, it also created a new role for younger party members to rise to power.

The classic example of the new power through the mobile voting is Yang Gyeong-suk, a senior executive of Radio 21, who was detained on charges of receiving money from aspiring lawmakers in return for using her network with the DUP to help them gain nominations.

According to the prosecution, Yang exchanged about 3,000 text messages with the DUP’s floor leader Park Jie-won.

Park, a political heavyweight of the largest opposition party who once served as the presidential chief of staff for the Kim Dae-jung Blue House, became acquainted with Yang, who has almost no prominent experience in politics, because of her capability in helping the DUP use mobile voting.

In the January leadership election, Park fought against candidates who had stronger ties to younger voters. Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister of the Roh Moo-hyun government, became the chairwoman of the DUP by winning an overwhelming victory in the mobile voting.

“The election terrain was drastically changed as the mobile voting was newly introduced,” said a Park associate. “And we were introduced to Yang at the time. She was presented as an executive of the civic group Power to the People.”

“We were unfamiliar with the mobile voting system, and we needed anyone who had knowledge about it. How could we say no to this?”

The associate, however, said the Park campaign had no money transactions with Yang at the time.

“If the DUP was not created at the end of last year, it was almost destined that Park would be the head of the Democratic Party,” said a DUP official. “But as the liberals united to create the new party, the mobile voting system was introduced, and the situation became unfavorable to him.”

In December 2011, the Democratic Party merged with the minority Citizens Unity Party and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to form the DUP.

“And I was told that Yang, who was from a Roh supporters’ group, approached the Park campaign by saying that she could win him mobile votes,” he said. “She once telephoned me to seek support for Park.”

According to sources in the liberal arena, Yang is a relatively famous personality on liberal social network services and Internet message boards.

During the presidential election in 2002, Yang founded Roh Moo-hyun Radio with some Roh loyalists. Rhyu Si-min, who later became the health minister in the Roh administration, and Moon Sung-keun, an actor-turned-politician and a senior leader of the DUP, were part of the radio station.

After Roh’s presidential victory, the station became Radio 21 and Yang served as its chief director.

She also worked as an executive of the progressive Webzine Seoprise. “Yang used ‘isky’ as her nickname for Seoprise,” said a DUP official. “And it was pretty famous.”

Although the prosecution is still investigating how Yang supported Park’s campaign, evidence showed that she was his supporter. Starting early this year, she posted messages supporting him using her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Before the January leadership election of the DUP, she also sent long mobile phone text messages to the liberal politician.

In March, around the time for the DUP’s candidate nomination process for the April 11 legislative elections, Yang again posted messages praising Park on Facebook and Twitter.

In contrast, she was avoided by other DUP people including Han, then party chairwoman.

“At the time, those who knew Yang well tried to avoid her, rather than having discussions with her,” said a first-term DUP lawmaker.

“We are seeing a strange phenomenon in the mobile voting,” said another DUP lawmaker. “In this system, a candidate, who has no supporters, can still harness the new mobile force and win.”

By Chae Byung-gun []
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