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Security for Presidential Candidates Becomes Political

Posted November. 15, 2007 03:58,   


Security for presidential candidates has been strengthened since former Grand National Party Chairman Lee Hoi-chang was hit by eggs and received a phone call from a man threatening to kill him with an air rifle.

Unlike other parties’ presidential candidates, the independent candidate was not under police protection. Security for independent candidates is provided only after they register as an official presidential candidate between November 25 and 26. Security for Lee has been provided by a group of six volunteers, including Yoo Oi-su, who was the head of the security team responsible for Lee’s security in the 2002 presidential election.

The incidents promoted the National Police Agency to announce on Wednesday that the police will provide protection for independent candidate Lee Hoi-chang and Creative Korea Party presidential candidate Mun Guk-hyeon as of Friday.

In addition, the police have decided to beef up the existing security detail for Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak, United New Democratic Party presidential candidate Chung Dong-young, Democratic Party presidential candidate Rhee In-je, Democratic Labor Party presidential candidate Kwon Young-ghil and People First Party presidential candidate Shim Dae-pyeong from today. As a consequence, the total number of police officers responsible for providing security for presidential candidates will jump from 55 to 96. Meanwhile, the Lee Hoi-chang camp plans to replace the glass in the van that Lee rides in with bullet-proof glass and increase the numbers of the volunteer security team to 10 so that they can shield the candidate against a possible attack with the bullet-proof plastic bags they carry in case of an emergency.

GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak is currently receiving protection from 18 police officers and nine private security guards. Once he is registered as an official presidential candidate, nine more police officers will be assigned to protect him. All police officers selected to protect presidential candidates have more than two years of experience and a certified three-degree or above black-belt in martial arts. Lee’s wife, Kim Yoon-ok, is also receiving protection from a private security guard. And UNDP candidate Chung is being escorted by 16 police officers. In this regard, an official of the Chung camp said, “We’re flexibly running the security personnel in order to avoid excessive protection that creates too great of a distance between the candidate and the people.”

There are rumors on the street that a person or a group of people who have extreme views toward politics may attempt to kill former GNP Chairman Lee.

The Lee Hoi-chang camp, however, believes that it is a good chance for Lee to raise his approval ratings by emphasizing the image that he is a “victim” of terrorist threats. The approval ratings of former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye rose from 16.4 percent to 21.5 percent after she was attacked by a man during local election campaigning in May 2006, according to surveys conducted by the Dong-A Ilbo.

Meanwhile, some even speculate that there is a possibility that North Korea, which has already expressed its opposition to the GNP taking power several times, may assassinate Lee Myung-bak after December 2, six days after he registers as an official presidential candidate of the party, so that the GNP cannot replace its presidential candidate. According to the Public Offices Election Law, a political party is allowed to replace its presidential candidate only within five days after its original candidate registers (December 1) in case he or she dies.

In response, the GNP is pushing a revised Public Offices Election Law which will postpone the presidential election for one month if a presidential candidate passes away.

However, the bill has been blocked by the UNDP, which is opposed to the proposed bill. “The bill intends to gather the support for GNP candidate Lee by making it look like as if someone from the pan-liberal forces is trying to kill him,” an official of the UNDP said.

The GNP and UNDP have decided to hold a senior party member meeting between the two parties on November 19 to discuss this matter again. Some also point out that in order to increase the professionalism and efficiency of security for presidential candidates, the presidential security team should lead the security teams of leading presidential candidates.

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