Minjoo Party fears Korean success at Olympics

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Minjoo Party fears Korean success at Olympics

The Olympics have always been a catalyst for Korean patriotism, as households around the nation tune in to watch their favorite athletes compete against foreign contenders.

But as the world gears up for the official launch of the 2016 Summer Olympics, only days away now, some here say they’ve started to feel a shiver run down their spines.

For lawmakers from the main opposition Minjoo Party, the greatest fear is that Team Korea will score high this year and bring joy to the nation, a scenario that would ironically prompt nearly the opposite reaction from them.

“It’s really a dilemma,” a Minjoo Party lawmaker said under the condition of anonymity. “I support Team Korea but…”

Park Soo-hyun, the Minjoo Party’s PR manager, referred to the final days reaching up to the Summer Games as the “golden time.”

Now is the time, said the PR chief, when the main opposition “will have to do whatever it takes to pressure the Blue House and the ruling Saenuri Party on issues regarding Woo Byung-woo [President Park Geun-hye’s senior civil affairs secretary] and Thaad [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense],” naming the two swords the Minjoo Party has recently brandished to take down President Park and her party.

After the Summer Games begins this Saturday, the public won’t care much about politics, and that includes these two issues. While the public’s interest shifts to the two-week-long Games taking place more than 1,000 miles away, the PR manager implied that the Blue House and the Saenuri Party will have earned themselves more time.

According to poll data from Realmeter, a comparison between the number of gold medals Korea won in the past Olympics and the approval ratings of former presidents prove in part why the Minjoo Party is so concerned.

Former President Lee Myung-bak’s approval rating shot up 7 percentage points from 21.8 percent before the 2012 London Olympics to 28.8 percent right after the Games. Team Korea that year won 13 gold medals, the fifth highest in the world.

Four years before, he saw his approval raised by 13.4 percentage points, from 16.5 percent to 29.1 percent, after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Team Korea won 13 gold medals to clinch seventh in the world. It was also the greatest number of golds the country had ever won in its history at the Olympics.

For former President Lee, whose administration battled with the public’s mad cow disease scare before the Games, Korea’s final ranking was like rain after a long drought. Just weeks earlier, thousands of protestors had swarmed the streets after a popular show on MBC highlighted the possible dangers of consuming American beef and claimed Koreans have a special vulnerability to mad cow disease.

Public distrust escalated even more when the Korean government pushed forward its decision to include the imported items in a newly signed trade agreement with the United States.

Lee Dong-gwan, who worked as a Blue House spokesman during the turmoil, acknowledged that the London Games did well for the presidential office. “State affairs were in gridlock because protestors were staging candlelight vigils,” Lee said. “But the national team put up a good fight and helped us break through.”

BY KANG TAE-HWA, YOO SEONG-WOON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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