Politics still mired in 2012 election dispute

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Politics still mired in 2012 election dispute

Almost a year has passed since Park Geun-hye was elected president, but the nation’s political community continues to remain fixated on her 2012 campaign, with the ruling and opposition parties continuing to fight over the legitimacy of her victory.

The thawing relationship between the two parties has recently been threatened by comments made by opposition Democratic lawmaker Jang Ha-na on Sunday, in which the first-term representative demanded that President Park step down and declared that the results from the presidential election were “unlawful.”

Making the DP’s position even worse, Representative Yang Seung-jo made controversial comments Monday at a senior lawmakers’ meeting, saying it was possible Park could follow in the footsteps of her father, former President Park Chung Hee, who was assassinated by his own spy chief 34 years ago.

The ruling Saenuri Party believes that the faction inside the Democratic Party supportive of former President Roh Moo-hyun is fostering the notion among party members and the public that President Park was elected on the back of the National Intelligence Service’s illegal online smear campaign against her rival Moon Jae-in.

Moon, currently a DP lawmaker, was formerly Roh’s closest aide.

Some Saenuri Party members also suspect that those in the pro-Roh faction are promoting these ideas to get a foothold in the mainstream.

“The easiest way for the pro-Roh group to regain leadership in the opposition party would be to define the presidential election as fraudulent, and encourage those who voted for Moon to rally against President Park,” said a lawmaker with the Saenuri, who asked not to be identified.

Meanwhile, the Democrats claim the Saenuri was the first to mobilize the “denial of presidential election results” as a weapon to threaten the other side.

“Everyone remembers that the Saenuri made countless blasphemous and profane remarks against former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun,” said Jun Byung-hun, the Democratic Party’s floor leader. “It was the Saenuri that refused to acknowledge Roh as president and pushed ahead with the recounting and impeachment.”

Some political watchers have claimed that the stark divide between the two parties is the result of not just the controversy surrounding the most recent election but of election losses on both sides over the past three terms, with emotions still running high.

The persistent political bickering between the parties over the election results, they argue, is also a sign that Korea’s political culture still lags behind that of other advanced economies.

Experts advised the Blue House and the Saenuri to “embrace those supporters of the opposition party,” while Democrats were urged to “respect the presidential post.”

“Professional politicians asking the incumbent president to step down has gone too far,” said In Myung-jin, who was formerly the Saenuri’s ethics committee leader and is now a Christian clergyman. “What is more problematic is the opposition party’s conventional frame of thinking - that unquestioningly knocking off the president could help them establish a foothold.”

However, the Blue House’s overly emotional reaction to the opposition’s remarks hasn’t been desirable either, the Rev. In added.

“The current situation is partially a result of immature and inadequate measures taken by the incumbent government to resolve the conflict between the two parties, which originated from the presidential election last year,” said Kang Won-taek, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. “The Blue House needs to find ways to embrace the 48 percent of voters who do not support Park.”

The professor added that even though most Koreans don’t believe the top spy agency’s alleged smear campaign contributed to Park’s win, the Saenuri’s refusal to immediately confront the issue and its adherence to waiting for the result of a related trial currently under way have actually caused “unnecessary controversy.”

He advised President Park to proactively express her regret over the spy agency’s alleged intervention in the election and more of a willingness to punish those involved.

BY KIM JUNG-HA, SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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