LKP leaders to skip Roh memorial

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LKP leaders to skip Roh memorial

High-profile politicians, mainly liberal, will attend the memorial ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the late President Roh Moo-hyun today, but members of the largest conservative opposition party will skip the event.

According to the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, the memorial event will start at 2 p.m. today at Roh’s grave in Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang. A film dedicated to the late leader will be shown at the ceremony and commemoration speeches will be delivered. According to the foundation, the surviving family of the late Roh, including his wife Kwon Yang-sook, and top politicians and government officials will attend the ceremony.

Every year, the foundation hosts a ceremony on May 23 to remember the late leader, who was respected for his straightforward manner and progressive policies. Many Roh loyalists from around the country, as well as politicians across the ideological spectrum, visit the village and attend the ceremony every year. The village is Roh’s hometown, and he returned there after serving his five-year presidential term from 2003 to 2008. He committed suicide on May 23, 2009, 24 days after being questioned by prosecutors about a bribery scandal implicating his family members and 15 months after leaving the Blue House.

According to the foundation, National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, leaders of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), leaders from other political parties, senior officials of the Moon Jae-in administration and Blue House, heads of regional governments and former officials of the Roh administration will attend the ceremony.

From the DP, about 60 members, including Chairman Lee Hae-chan and floor leader Lee In-young, will attend the event. Yang Jeong-cheol, the director of the Institute for Democracy, will also attend the ceremony. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and other ministers, as well as the presidential chief of staff, Noh Young-min, and other senior Blue House secretaries, will also join the ceremony.

President Moon Jae-in, the closet political ally of Roh, will not attend the event. He attended the ceremony in 2017 shortly after he took office. At the time, Moon said “Today will be my last time to attend this ceremony as president,” making clear that he won’t attend the event for the rest of his term.

The heads of regional governments who are DP members, including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, will also participate in the ceremony.

Some of Roh’s key aides, however, will miss the ceremony. South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyung-soo posted a message on his Facebook page that he will be in court for his appeals trial. Kim is known as Roh’s last secretary, since he stayed at Bongha Village to serve the former president after his term ended. Earlier this year, Kim was convicted of conspiring with a power blogger to manipulate online public opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election to support Moon. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and he appealed the ruling.

Another key confidante of the late Roh, his former Minister of Health and Welfare Ryu Si-min, will be absent because his mother passed away on Wednesday. Ryu is the current head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, the organizer of the memorial ceremony.

Leaders from other political parties will attend the ceremony. While the Bareunmirae Party, Party for Democracy and Peace, and Justice Party said they will participate in the memorial ceremony, the main conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has no plan to send delegates.

Its chairman, Hwang Kyo-ahn, will not attend the ceremony, although he made a rare appearance at the commemoration event for the 39th anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement on Saturday. At the time, he faced fierce protests from Gwangju residents.

Hwang visited Bongha Village on March 5 this year after he won the LKP chairmanship race in February. At the time, Hwang paid his respects at the grave of Roh and had a meeting with Kwon for about 30 minutes.

Over the past years, the LKP has treated the event icily. It sent no official envoy to the ceremony last year. In 2017, its secretary general - not the chairman or floor leader - attended the service.

In 2015, Kim Moo-sung, then head of the Saenuri Party, the predecessor of the LKP, attended the event. At the time, Roh’s surviving son attacked the conservative party for “having failed to repent after pushing the president to death.” Supporters of the late president also shouted insults and some even threw water bottles at Kim.

This year’s event will have a special guest - former U.S. President George W. Bush. He is planning to deliver a portrait of the late president that he painted. Roh’s U.S. counterpart during his entire five-year term was Bush. After leaving office in January 2009, Bush has devoted much of his time to painting. Bush will deliver a memorial address at the ceremony, before National Assembly Speaker Moon and Prime Minister Lee. Bush met Roh multiple times during their presidencies.

According to the Blue House, President Moon will greet Bush at the Blue House on Thursday morning ahead of the ceremony at Bongha Village later in the afternoon.

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