Candidates spin rocket launch to benefit campaign

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Candidates spin rocket launch to benefit campaign

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Presidential front-runners Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in yesterday each tried to use North Korea’s long-range missile launch, which took place one week before the South’s election, to their own benefit by promoting their crisis management abilities while blaming the rival for allowing the provocation.

Park, the conservative candidate representing the ruling Saenuri Party, condemned the North during her stumping in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

“It was a provocation toward not only the Republic of Korea, but also the international community,” Park said.

“The North always tries to intervene in our presidential elections, and they are testing our people once again with no exception.

“Electing the candidate with a strong national security view to run this country is an important topic of this election,” Park said.

She, then, criticized two liberal opposition parties for their perceptions on national security.

“There are some people who refuse to sing the national anthem and salute the national flag,” Park said, referring to the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party.

“And we cannot let the people who cooperate with them run this country,” she continued, criticizing the bond between the UPP and the largest opposition Democratic United Party.

The Park campaign also used the opportunity to attack their liberal rival Moon and his Democratic United Party.

“The North spent enough money to feed their people for one year to launch the missile,” said Ahn Hyoung-hwan, a Park campaign spokesman.

“Let’s think about where the North secured the money. The North fired its long-range missile in 2006, and it was during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The Roh government gave careless assistance to the North and it eventually led to the missile launch.”

Moon served in the Roh Blue House in various posts since 2003, including the presidential chief of staff from 2007 to 2008.

Moon yesterday also used the North’s missile launch to attack the ruling party and the current government, while making clear that he “sternly objects to any North action that threatens the peace of the Korean Peninsula.”

“The North’s missile launch is a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions,” Moon said. “I urge the North to behave as a responsible member of the international community.”

Moon asked the government and the Saenuri Party to not use the important national security issue to its advantage for the presidential election, but he himself used it to rail against the Lee Myung-bak government and the ruling party.

“The government said until yesterday that the North had taken down the missile for repair,” Moon said. “A missile is as tall as a 20-story building. We are living in the era that a satellite can detect something as small as a cigarette pack. Does it make a sense that the government failed to know whether the rocket was taken down or not?”

“This administration was also unaware of Kim Jong-il’s death until the North broadcasted it two days later,” Moon said. “We can see the national security incompetence of the Saenuri Party’s administration.”

Experts said yesterday that the North’s missile launch is not a game changer since the voters are used to North Korean provocations on the eve of the elections.

“It won’t make a big impact,” said Ko Sung-kuk, a political commentator.

“If there is any, the conservatives will unite more strongly, and Park could benefit from it. It makes Moon more difficult to talk about flexible, engagement policy toward the North. But if Park tries to use the issue too aggressively, it will also backfire.”

Meanwhile, the gap between Park and Moon gradually shrank, while Park managed to hold on to her lead. In the JTBC-Realmeter poll on Tuesday, Park scored 47.8 percent and Moon 45.6 percent.

In the Munhwa Ilbo-Korea Research poll, Park earned 42.8 percent while Moon scored 41.9 percent on Tuesday.

Yesterday marked the deadline for the media to release poll outcomes. Starting today, polls conducted as of yesterday can be made public, but media are barred from releasing updated numbers.

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

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