2012 campaign officially kicks off

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2012 campaign officially kicks off


Left: Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, appeals to voters yesterday at Daejeon Station. Right: Moon Jae-in, presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic United Party, shakes hands with supporters yesterday in Busan.[YONHAP]

Presidential front-runners Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in yesterday kicked off their official campaigns with pugnacious stump speeches in battleground constituencies.

The ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park held her first official campaign appearance at Daejeon Station and sharply attacked the Democratic United Party’s Moon for his service in the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-8).

“The opposition party’s candidate was the highest and most powerful figure in a failed administration,” Park said of Moon, who was chief of staff of Roh’s Blue House. “As soon as the Roh administration was launched, they attempted to scrap the National Security Law and to revise the laws governing private schools. You probably remember the days that we stayed up many nights over the ideological fights they started.”

Park said the Roh government had split the country and the public suffered economically at the time.

“During the Roh administration, college tuition and real estate prices skyrocketed,” Park said. “Wealth polarization worsened and many people became temporary workers. But they have never looked back on their shortcomings and apologized. They are still blaming others for their failures.”

Park promoted her own vision of “grand national unity,” promising to bridge the regional, generational and ideological divides of the country.

She apparently chose the Chungcheong region as the starting point of her campaign because winning swing votes in Chungcheong has long been a key to a presidential victory in Korea, with its politics divided between the Gyeongsang and Jeolla regions. Kim Young-sam in 1992, Kim Dae-jung in 1997 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2002 all scored victories in Chungcheong, and that translated into victories.

The Saenuri Party absorbed the Chungcheong-based conservative minority Advancement and Unification Party in October in pursuit of the region’s votes. Lee Hoi-chang, two-time presidential candidate of the party’s predecessor and former head of the Advancement and Unification Party, joined Park’s campaign earlier this month.

According to the April general election voter registry, there were more than 3.98 million voters in North and South Chungcheong and Daejeon, about 10 percent of the nation’s 40.18 million voters.

After stumping in Daejeon, Park visited other major cities in the region, including Sejong City and Gongju.

In Sejong City, the country’s new administrative capital initiated by Roh and later championed by Park, she said: “I have kept the promise to follow through with the Sejong City plan by risking my political life. I will keep my promises to the people at all costs.”

Moon headed to Busan, his political hometown where he won a lawmaker seat in the April general election.

In a speech in front of the Seobu Bus Terminal in his Sasang District constituency, Moon called Park a symbolic leftover of military dictatorship of her father Park Chung Hee.

“She glorified her father’s military coup as a decision that saved the country,” Moon said. “How can she possibly promote democracy with such a historical perspective?”

Moon said the upcoming presidential election is “a battle between a power from the past and a power for the future.”

Describing Park as a high-handed leader who failed to communicate with the people, Moon said, “I have worked for my entire life to bring democracy and human rights to this country, and I have lived a life of a commoner with all the commoners.”

Moon also promised to continue a vision of a new kind of cleaner politics championed by Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent liberal candidate who dropped out of the race Friday after a failed merger deal with Moon.

“I won’t forget the sincerity and tears of Ahn, who made an important, beautiful decision to change the administration,” Moon said. “I will lead efforts to realize Ahn’s dream of a new kind of politics.”

To highlight his image as a commoner, Moon traveled by subway yesterday morning to Gimpo Airport to fly to Busan.

“Park has never lived a life as a commoner,” Moon said. “She never had a job to earn money or worried about housing prices, employment, debts, interest rates on bank loans or prices.”

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

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