Rep. Park tells president not to use North as a cudgel

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Rep. Park tells president not to use North as a cudgel

Rep. Park Jie-won, acting leader of the People’s Party, warned President Park Geun-hye and her Saenuri Party on Tuesday that before attacking an opposition presidential frontrunner, they must bear in mind that he knows what went on during the current president’s meeting with former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2002.

“I am very well aware of the content of her conversation with Kim during her trip to Pyongyang,” Rep. Park said.

When she was chairwoman of her own political party, the Korea Coalition for the Future, President Park made a four-day trip to Pyongyang starting on May 11, 2002, during which she spoke with Kim one-on-one. At the time, Rep. Park served as the presidential chief of staff.

“I know what they talked about for four hours,” Rep. Park said. “I know whether she asked for a special envoy or not. I know everything.”

The meeting was a high-profile event, as it was the first encounter between the son of North Korean founder, Kim Il Sung, and the daughter of South Korean strongman, Park Chung Hee, die-hard cold war adversaries. But the reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas was high in 2002, following then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s historic summit in 2000 with the North Korean leader.

Although Rep. Park did not fully disclose the specifics of the Park-Kim conversation in 2002, he leveled his threat at the Blue House and the Saenuri Party over the latest political firestorm concerning a memoir published by a former diplomat, Song Min-soon, who served as a foreign minister for the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

In his book, Song wrote that Seoul asked Pyongyang’s opinion about a 2007 UN vote regarding North Korean human rights. The Roh administration eventually abstained. Song goes on to write that Moon Jae-in, then-presidential chief of staff, was the top-level official responsible for asking the North its opinion via an inter-Korea channel. Moon, who ran against President Park in the 2012 presidential race and was narrowly defeated, is the presidential frontrunner of the Minjoo Party of Korea, and the Saenuri Party and the Blue House fiercely attacked him over Song’s claims. Rep. Park further attacked President Park, reminding her of how she had acted in the past toward inter-Korean issues.

“When the people waved the South Korean national flags at the inter-Korean soccer match in Sangam Stadium [in September 2002], she was furious that they were not waving the Korean Peninsula flags,” he said. “Do we have to question her ideological standing over this?”

Reminding the president that she, too, has shown different attitudes in the past, Park also urged the ruling party to stop their attacks on Moon and other opposition politicians by labeling them as pro-Pyongyang.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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