A fog of rumors on campaign trailA campaign trail usually has nasty twists and turns. The most recent in our presidential race is likely to serve a severe blow to Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate from the ruling Saenuri Party, or Ahn Cheol-soo, dean of a Seoul National University graduate school. Ahn’s lawyer claimed he received a phone call from Park’s camp threatening to spill some dirty secrets about Ahn if he announces a run in the presidential race. What Keum Tae-sup, lawyer and de facto spokesman for Ahn, said in a hastily organized press conference was shocking and could have serious repercussions.
Keum said he received a phone call Tuesday morning from Jeong Jung-guil, Park’s public relations officer in the election camp, warning that he would expose one of Ahn’s shady deals and an out-of-wedlock relationship if Ahn runs. Jeong claimed he had evidence of a bribe received by Ahn and of his “other woman.”
If Jeong’s claims are true, Ahn would not only have to reconsider a presidential bid, but he may have to step down from the elite school. His appealing image of cleanness and honesty would be stained. Keum said the accusations were completely groundless. If that is true, Jeong and Park’s camp have more or less tried to blackmail Ahn with a couple of total lies.
Jeong said it was a “friendly call” to warn Keum of rumors going around about Ahn. He denied any bad intentions and just wanted to give some friendly advice to a potential competitor of his own boss.
The phone conversation was not taped so we cannot verify who is telling the complete truth. But what the information suggests is scandalous enough. Even if they are friends, it is inappropriate for Jeong to drop such a suggestion to someone at a rival political camp. Jeong is Park’s de facto point man against Ahn and a former prosecutor specializing in bribery cases.
It is quite low to blackmail someone purely on rumors. If he actually has evidence, Jeong should reveal it. The Saenuri Party is wrong to sidestep the issue, saying that Jeong’s action had nothing to do with the party. The party should seek accountability and live up to its promise of fair play in campaigning. Ahn should also step from behind the veil. This problem is too serious to be dealt with by proxies. If these were slanderous and defamatory claims, he should say so out loud. He should stop playing games and declare whether he will run in the race or not. If he has the guts and capacity, he should step into the center ring and face political challenges like a real contestant.