Chung promotes hard work ethic

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Chung promotes hard work ethic

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Chung Mong-joon, the ruling Saenuri Party candidate in the Seoul mayoral race, wants to be remembered as a mayor who worked hard for his city.

“If [Seoul] Mayor Park Won-soon said that he wants to be remembered as a mayor that did not work, then I want to be remembered as a mayor that did work,” the seven-term lawmaker told the JoongAng Ilbo in an interview Tuesday at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in central Seoul.

“We have to make a Seoul government that is preparing for when our per capita [gross domestic product] will hit $40,000 in 10 years’ time,” he added.

Seoul’s per capita income last year was $23,838, according to the World Economic Outlook by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Chung resigned from his National Assembly seat earlier this month to run against incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, the opposition candidate for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), in the June 4 local elections.

The son of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, he was the longest-serving politician among lawmakers elected in the 2012 general election and has served seven terms.

“Mayor Park spent some 250 billion won ($245 million) on his ‘village community’ project but does not give money to North Korean human rights groups because of party partisanship,” Chung said.

He added that his rival had ignored projects that Seoul citizens wanted, including those related to welfare development, employment, real estate and the economy, and only “focused on projects for himself.”

Last month, Chung was thrust into the center of controversy when his youngest son, 18, posted a controversial Facebook message following the April 16 Sewol ferry tragedy.

“Unlike people in other countries who cope with disasters rationally, Korean people shout out loud and swear in the face of the president, who pledged to do her best with rescue efforts.” the note read.

Chung quickly apologized for his son and again acknowledged his regret over the incident on May 12, when he accepted his candidacy in the election, even shedding a tear.

“There are many things that my son is lacking in,” Chung explained to the JoongAng Ilbo,

“If I was not running for public office, that child would have been able to mature naturally. I am pained to think that he has been hurt because of his father.”

The following is an edited excerpt from the interview:



Q. You were formerly a presidential candidate, so why are you running for Seoul mayor?

A. According to the Roman philosopher Seneca, public office is like death. It is foolish to run from it when it comes along. It doesn’t make sense that a commander only fights in big wars and not in small ones. If I have to run as Seoul mayor, I can’t avoid it.



You are critical of Mayor Park’s ideology.

We have to let it be known that the same person who is opposed to the construction of the Jeju naval base, yet also signed a document saying that the U.S. base in Pyeongtaek is a base for a war of aggression, is the mayor of Seoul. An election is an opportunity for a dialogue with the people. Even if raising such issues is damaging to me, I still want to speak with the public on this matter. The safety of the people can only be guaranteed when the country is safe.



What is the problem?

[Mayor Park] recently said that ‘the era of construction is gone and the era of architecture is here,’ but does that make sense?

Construction and architecture go hand in hand in civil engineering. He also said that he ‘won’t do civil engineering, but will pursue social overhead capital (SOC).’ But this is also illogical. How can you achieve SOC without civil engineering and construction? [Park] has halted all seven of the new light railways that former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said would be constructed, and now as his term comes to an end, [Park] has said he will build three more. Isn’t that just a play on words?



Since the Sewol ferry disaster, your approval rating has declined compared to Mayor Park. What measures will you take to resolve this?

Other than trying my best, what other concise plan can there be? However, I think that our people are all strongly patriotic.

Mayor Park has never spoken proudly of our country and does not speak of a liberal democracy or a market economy. He also said that we cannot speak of North Korean human rights because North Korea is a closed country. In those areas, he is appealing to public patriotism.



Mayor Park seems to be taking a ‘chaebol vs. common people’ approach in his campaign.

The head the [New Politics Alliance for Democracy], Ahn Cheol-soo, is chaebol-level. Is it wrong that I am rich when the leader of [Park’s] party is chaebol-level?

Mayor Park on the one hand is using the [non-governmental organization] People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy to attack major conglomerates, but on the other hand he uses the Beautiful Foundation to hold out his hands to the conglomerates. That kind of hypocritical behavior is more problematic.


BY KIM JUNG-HA, KIM KYUNG-HEE [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]



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