DP’s think tank criticized for using trade spat for election gain

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DP’s think tank criticized for using trade spat for election gain

The ruling party’s think tank faced criticism on Wednesday after distributing a report to lawmakers that harsh responses to Japan will benefit the party in next year’s general election.

The Institute for Democracy issued a statement on Wednesday, admitting that it had included inappropriate content in a report distributed to Democratic Party (DP) lawmakers the previous day because of its failed oversight. “We have issued stern warnings to those responsible,” the institute said.

“The institute does not agree with linking the Korea-Japan row with the election,” it continued. “We will be more careful to prevent analysis, which is not an official stance of the party or the institute, from causing misunderstanding.”

The institute distributed Tuesday a report, titled “Analysis into the public opinion survey on Korea-Japan conflict,” to all DP lawmakers. The report included the outcome of a poll conducted by the Korea Society Opinion Institute last week and the institute’s analysis of that survey.

Citing the poll’s outcome, the report said there are predominant opinions that each party’s response on the Korea-Japan row, prompted by Tokyo’s export restrictions, will likely affect the upcoming general election in April. It also said many prefer stern responses based on principles, concluding that the DP will benefit from the situation in the election.

It noted that all political and age groups, except for the supporters of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), supported the idea of scrapping the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan if Tokyo decides to take Korea off its so-called white list of 27 countries that enjoy minimum trade restrictions.

After the report was distributed to the lawmakers on Tuesday, local media started reporting about it.

Opposition parties are furious that the ruling party was trying to take advantage of the escalating diplomatic row.

“This is the brazen-faced administration’s ugly truth that it only cares about votes, although the country and the economy are collapsing,” Rep. Jun Hee-kyung, LKP spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

She also said the report explained why President Moon Jae-in, the Blue House and the DP have been fueling anti-Japan sentiment over the past weeks. “The Blue House and the ruling party have no intention of resolving the crisis,” she said. “They only want to fuel public rage and use it in the election campaign. We will hold them accountable. We want an answer from President Moon.”

Chairman Chung Dong-young of the Party for Democracy and Peace also questioned the Blue House and the DP if they really wanted to prolong the crisis until next year’s general election for their political gains. “The DP must issue a formal apology and fire Yang Jeong-cheol from the head of the institute.”

After two years of self-imposed political exile, Yang, one of the closest confidants of President Moon, became the director of the Institute for Democracy in May. On his first day on the job, Yang had told reporters that his mission is the DP’s victory in next year’s legislative elections.

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