Ahn criticized by Roh supporters

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Ahn criticized by Roh supporters

Political figures who served under the Roh Moo-hyun administration have begun questioning the political principles of first-term lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo, who is currently in the process of creating a new opposition party after merging with the Democrats, with some questioning the independent lawmaker’s stance on North Korean affairs.

Open confrontation by pro-Roh faction members both in and outside the DP was considered an inevitable possibility by political observers as the two factions united, especially as disagreements emerged between Roh loyalists and Ahn over who would lead the newly named New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which has yet to be formed.

South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung, who worked with Roh since the early 1990s, stated in a radio interview with PBC yesterday that “just replacing a policy platform or political phrases with something else does not constitute new politics. What people demand of new politics are not fancy political statements.”

An is known for being one of the closest aides to former President Roh. In 2004, he was convicted of taking bribes to further Roh’s 2002 presidential campaign and sentenced to one year in prison.

In regard to open resistance the independent lawmaker has faced from the Democrats over inter-Korean policy, the governor responded that the new party should continue honoring and further developing the principles of the policy carried out by the Kim Dae-jung and Roh administrations.

Over the course of the week, Ahn was heavily criticized for allegedly demanding to disregard the principles of the joint Seoul-Pyongyang agreements, drawn up from two inter-Korean summits in Pyongyang, in which the two sides declared to work toward overcoming ideological differences and establish permanent peace.

The first summit, between President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, took place in 2000; the second was between Roh and Kim Jong-il in 2007.

Ahn’s camp initially sought to place more emphasis on national security and pursue a harder stance on the North. However, after encountering open hostility from the DP, Ahn backtracked and issued a statement Wednesday proclaiming that he has always honored the spirit of the two summits and will adhere to their principles for the course of his political career. But the apologetic tone of his statement didn’t stop Roh supporters yesterday from speaking out against him.

The 50-year-old governor, who is now seeking re-election in June and considered a possible contender for the 2017 presidential election, also expressed his disapproval of Ahn’s alleged nod on a revised basic pension scheme proposed by the Park Geun-hye government.

“It is the majority opinion [of the Democrats] that the basic pension system should not undermine the National Pension Service by linking the two services,” An said.

Meanwhile, another Roh supporter, Lee Byung-wan, the chief of staff during the Roh Blue House, also took a jab at the businessman turned lawmaker yesterday.

“An attempt by the new political force to exclude [the spirit] of the Gwangju May 18 uprising and the [Seoul-Pyongyang summits] was a total shock to the residents of Gwangju,” Lee, who is running for the Gwangju mayoral election, said yesterday in a radio interview with KBS.

Lee added that although Ahn had expressed his regret over the controversy, his stance on the issue had still disappointed Gwangju residents.

Since Ahn and the main opposition Democratic Party announced a merger on March 2, political watchers have speculated over whether a power struggle will emerge among Ahn and pro-Roh figures during and after the party’s formation process.

So far, the DP and Ahn’s camp have made little progress in agreeing on policy, principles or organizational structure for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy Party.

The remarks by An and Lee yesterday came a day after Moon Jae-in, who outmaneuvered Ahn to be the sole opposition candidate in the 2012 presidential race and the de facto leader of the pro-Roh faction, urged Ahn’s camp to embrace the principles of the DP’s North Korean policy in the new party’s official platform.

“With the Park government talking about how it will be hitting a ‘jackpot’ with unification, the opposition is responsible for advancing the issue [of inter-Korean relations],” Moon said Wednesday. “It will not be appropriate for the new party to skip mentioning the [Seoul-Pyongyang] summits in its official policy platform.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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