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New Liberal Party Starts Nomination Race with Party Debate

New Liberal Party Starts Nomination Race with Party Debate

Posted August. 28, 2007 03:14,   


Former Gyeonggi Province governor criticized for his lack of “identity” -

The presidential hopefuls of the liberal United New Democratic Party harshly lambasted Sohn Hak-gyu, former Gyeonggi Province governor, for having been affiliated with the GNP. “I wonder why Sohn is here; he once said that his goal was winning the presidential election in the GNP. I am ashamed by the fact that I`m having this discussion with Sohn,” Cheon Jeong-bae, a former justice minister, snapped at him. He also drove him into a corner, saying, “What have the democratic forces done so wrong that we have to do this with the once third-ranking GNP contender?"

“Mr. Sohn’s platform is not different from Lee Myung-bak, the presidential candidate of the opposition Grand National Party who has made economic development one of his main election pledges. With no policy distinction from the rival contender, we cannot win the election,” said Shin Ki-nam, former chief of the unraveled Uri Party.

Former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan also joined the attack by asking him about the birth rate during his time as minister of health and welfare. When the former governor failed to answer, Lee lashed out at him saying that his failure to curb the decrease in birth rates at the time has resulted in today’s ever-falling fertility rates. Chung Dong-young, the former unification minister, also did his share of attacking Sohn, criticizing his past remarks that “rice aid to North Korea should not be driven by sympathy.”

Responding to this barrage of criticism, Sohn defended himself by invoking a Chinese four-letter maxim that says “it doesn’t matter whether it is a black cat or a white cat as long as it catches mice.” “People want jobs. Things have changed, so we should also change in line with the trends,” he retorted.

Controversy over the merits and demerits of the Uri Party and the government –

When it comes to judging the performance of the present administration and the now-defunct Uri Party, opinions starkly differed between pro-Roh and anti-Roh groups. They exchanged the offensive and defensive over who should be held accountable.

“Chung is irresponsible. Though he served twice as the chief of the party, he defected from the party with no explanations,” said former Uri Party chief Shin, hitting out against former Unification Minister Chung. In response to this statement, Chung replied, “I did my utmost with the determination that I would not run for presidency unless unity is achieved. What did Mr. Shin do for unity?”

“A pro-Roh candidate who doesn’t repent cannot win a victory. We should first apologize to the public for failing to bring about harmony among the party, the government and Cheong Wa Dae, and for the president and a few of his close aids falling into self-righteousness. After that, we can start the race,” Cheon said.

Alternatively, former Prime Minister Lee insisted, “The reason for the defeat of the Uri Party in local and by-elections lies in the low turnout, which made progressive forces get a smaller number of votes.” Han Myeong-sook, the former Prime Minister, said, “I disagree with the argument that the current government has failed. It only faulted on issues of communication and people’s livelihoods.”

In the meantime, Chu Mi-ae, former lawmaker, took issue with the split of the Democratic Party in 2003. Asking former Prime Minister Lee whether he considered the split up to be a good decision, she said, “I am the sole contender who is able to ward off accusation of being a member of the same Uri party.”

Beating Lee Myung-bak between times -

Nine presidential hopefuls never fail to attack Lee Myung-bak, the presidential candidate running on the GNP’s ticket. Former party chief Chung accused Lee for being anachronistic, pro-American, and anti-nationalistic as he asked to postpone the second inter-Korean summit. Cheon chimed in with him saying that Lee was gripped with conservative ideas of the Cold Era.

“Lee’s grand cannel project must be scrapped since it will bring a big catastrophe to the country. The idea of floating oil tankers on our water supply is reminiscent of the nineteenth century,” said former Prime Minister Han. “It’s preposterous. We cannot let him lead the nation,” added former Prime Minister Lee in criticizing the GNP candidate. “If Lee is elected president, the working and middle classes will be worse off,” said Shin, former Uri party chief.

Rhyu Si-min, former minister of health and welfare, refrained from attacking other contenders. Kim Du-gwan, former minister of government administration and home affairs, elicited laughter from the crowd by asking Rhyu, who made a pledge of rooting out wild boars by dispatching special forces, “Why don’t you deploy the navy or marines to eliminate bugs for Jinhae citizens?”

The first policy debate of the new liberal party was held after the twists and turns where president Roh’s loyalists, including Lee Hae-chan, Han Myeong-sook, and Shin Ki-nam, refused to attend the debate, raising suspicion that some contenders abused electoral colleges in order to register.

Meanwhile, a TV debate originally scheduled on August 31 was cancelled due to the reluctance from TV networks in broadcast it live, making the debate of August 27 the only one among hopefuls before the primary elections.

tesomiom@donga.com mindy@donga.com