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Enemies Debate

Posted August. 29, 2007 07:22,   


Gain or Loss for Sohn –

Former Justice Minister Cheon Jeong-bae continued his attack on former Gyeonggi Governor Sohn Hak-gyu yesterday. He lashed out at Sohn in a recent primary debate, and yesterday his spokesperson Jeong Seong-ho issued a statement maligning Sohn.

Jeong argued, “We are not talking about his previous membership with the Grand National Party. We are talking about his protection of the wealthy and the vested. Many people told us after the debate that Sohn is not capable of reforming the nation.”

Speaking for Sohn, spokesperson Woo Sang-ho countered, “What has Cheon done so far? He just sat on his hands, while Mr. Sohn was working hard to create this new party. How could he blame Mr. Sohn?”

Sohn’s assessment of the debate stands miles apart from those of the other participants.

His opponents gave Sohn’s performance an F, saying, “He was totally off the mark and unprepared.” They pointed out Sohn’s failure to cite various statistics on taxes and birth rates, and to efficiently encounter criticism on his political identity during the debate.

Sohn’s camp, however, considered the debate structure sanguine. One insider said, “Sohn competed against the other 8 candidates. It was not bad. The debate spoke itself how strong Sohn is among the contenders.”

New Images of Cheon Jeong-bae, Rhyu Si-min and Kim Du-gwan –

Cheon now reportedly feels encouraged. During the debate, he cornered former Governor Sohn and former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan. He gained an aggressive image through the debate. From the beginning onwards, he aggressively criticized Sohn for his lack of political identity, and former Prime Minster Lee for his opposition to the construction of an additional KTX line to the Honam region.

A source close to Cheon commented, “We dominated the media coverage. Mr. Cheon felt satisfied. We are not sure how ordinary citizens understood Cheon’s aggressiveness. One thing we can tell for sure is that our supporters liked it.”

Two former ministers, Rhyu and Kim, succeeded in creating positive images for themselves, according to observers.

Aware of the public criticism about his arrogant behavior, Rhyu maintained low profile throughout the debate. A Rhyu campaigner assessed the debate, saying, “We did a nice job. Mr. Rhyu successfully pictured himself as a soft, humble person. It would have been a lot more wonderful if he had had more questions and more opportunities to get his ideas across.” In the meantime, former Minister Kim drew attention through his functioning as a stimulant. He made friendly comments to soften his hard-line image.

The other candidates such as Shin Ki-nam performed at an average level, as expected.

The Monday debate indicated how candidates will team up with each other in the primary slated for early next month, and what strategies each candidate will employ.

Above all, the debate was a battleground between President Roh followers and “anti-Roh” candidates, and between Sohn and the other contenders.

tesomiom@donga.com mindy@donga.com