Major parties resort to mudslinging on opponents
The ruling and opposition parties are resorting to negative campaigning tactics with just around 50 days left until the presidential election, revealing private phone calls of family members and engaging in muckraking to bring the other candidate down.
A conservative lawyer and former judge, Jang Yeong-ha, on Tuesday disclosed 160-minute-long recordings of 34 phone conversations between ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung and his late elder brother and sister-in-law, which included Lee using profanities and foul, degrading language.
Jang, an outspoken critic of the DP candidate and a member of the main opposition People Power Party's (PPP) special committee probing allegations against Lee, held a press conference on Tuesday and revealed transcripts of phone calls years ago between Lee, during his time as Seongnam mayor, and his relatives over family issues including their mother. Jang did not say exactly how he obtained the recordings but said he is holding the conference on his individual capacity.
The released phone calls, however, appear to be a tit-for-tat response to the revealing of parts of seven hours' worth of phone conversations last year between Kim Keon-hee, wife of PPP presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, and a liberal YouTube media channel reporter, by broadcaster MBC on Sunday.
Jang noted that in one phone call, candidate Lee's wife Kim Hye-kyung "laughed at" her brother-in-law.
He also claimed that the recordings revealed information on Lee's wife's meddling in the appointment of Yoo Dong-gyu as the former head of the Seongnam Development Corporation, a figure involved in the Daejang-dong land development scandal.
Jang, a former Suwon judge, had previously been a confidant of Lee but is now representing clients with legal disputes against the former Gyeonggi governor and recently authored a book entitled "Goodbye, Lee Jae-myung."
Lee has for years bickered with his brother's family over their mother and other family issues.
Later Tuesday, Lee said that the information revealed through the recordings has already been made public in the past, but apologized for causing concern.
The candidate's brother, Lee Jae-seon, was admitted to a mental hospital in November 2014, while Lee Jae-myung was mayor of Seongnam, and died of lung cancer in 2019. A local court in 2019 acquitted then-Gyeonggi Gov. Lee of charges of abuse of authority by forcibly admitting his elder brother to a mental hospital.
"Although there are circumstances that are difficult to explain, I once again deeply apologize for causing controversy as a public figure," said Lee, with tears in his eyes. "My mother and the older brother at the root of the problem are no longer in the world. This will never happen again, so I would be grateful if the people will forgive me."
The DP's election campaign committee filed a complaint against Jang, accusing him of slandering their presidential candidate. The DP said that the act of selectively editing and disclosing the material "illegally distributed" by the lawyer also violates the guidelines of the National Election Commission (NEC) and the election act.
The PPP's election campaign in turn accused the DP of "spreading false information" by labeling Jang as speaking as a member of the PPP, distancing itself by saying that the lawyer spoke on his individual capacity.
The PPP's floor leader, Kim Gi-hyeon, however said Wednesday in a briefing on the release of the transcripts, "Allegations of Lee's lies related to the Daejang-dong project are being revealed one after another."
"It's a campaign strategy to drag the election into the mud playing with recording of the past." DP Rep. An Min-suk told CBS radio Wednesday. "An unprepared and incompetent opponent makes the election negative and muddy, and voters aren't able to distinguish their skills."
But An then also described Kim Keon-hee as a "second Choi Soon-sil," referring to former President Park Geun-hye's close confidante's "habit of mixing facts and lies." Choi was at the center of the 2016 influence-peddling scandal which led to the impeachment of Park.
Kim after the MBC broadcast Sunday apologized for controversial remarks on the Me Too movement, implying that conservatives paid off victims of sexual abuse better than liberals. The recordings also revealed that Kim may have tried to meddle in her husband's election campaign, though the PPP said there was nothing groundbreaking about the much-hyped recordings.
MBC plans to broadcast the second part of Yoon's wife's phone calls Sunday, and Kim, who claims them to be private conversations, in turn filed an injunction with the Seoul Western District Court to block the airing Wednesday.
The DP also raised allegations that a shaman was involved in decision-making in the PPP's campaign, after an alleged shaman surnamed Jeon was spotted in a Jan. 1 video appearing friendly with Yoon at his campaign's networking subcommittee event. While rejecting the shamanism allegations, the PPP disbanded its campaign's networking subcommittee Tuesday.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]