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Park GH’s campaign enters hiatus over intensified party strife

Troubled Saenuri candidate turns to former political ally for help


With her campaign dogged by growing reshuffle calls and conflict among key campaigners, embattled presidential candidate Rep. Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party is turning to a former ally for help.

Park told reporters on Tuesday that former floor leader Kim Moo-sung would “take on an important role at the central election committee in the future” as she attended a symposium hosted by the Saenuri Party’s Political Reform Committee.

Party sources said Kim is likely to act as the general chief of the election campaign headquarters, rather than chairing the entire central election committee, upon his wish to be involved at the coalface of the campaign.

Kim was one of Park’s closest aides during the 2007 presidential primary, supervising her campaign management. The former four-term lawmaker, however, became at odds with Park during his bid to become floor leader in 2009. Park was hesitant to support him for fear of amplifying the pro-Park and pro-Lee Myung-bak factional dispute. The two had also clashed over the government’s move to revise the Sejong City relocation plan.

Kim, however, reportedly regained Park’s trust by staying in the campaign despite his failure to win the party’s nomination for the April general elections this year. Kim, a veteran politician, is said to be well-received by both the pro-Park and pro-Lee factions. It remains to be seen whether the appointment of Kim will help sooth the widening fissures among the party and campaign members, observers said.
Saenuri Party presidential nominee Rep. Park Geun-hye shakes hands with independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo at a forum in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
Saenuri Party presidential nominee Rep. Park Geun-hye shakes hands with independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo at a forum in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

Park also focused on changing the mind of her key political reform man Ahn Dai-hee, who vowed a day before to quit his job as the Political Reform Committee head unless she reversed her decision last week to appoint Han Gwang-ok, the right-hand man of deceased former President Kim Dae-jung, as the party’s unity committee chairman, citing his criminal record. Han was convicted in 2003 of receiving bribes from a businessman.

Park and Ahn sat side-by-side at the symposium but the atmosphere was chilly with the two simply exchanging words of greeting.

Park’s economic democratization strategist and head of the Committee to Pursue People’s Happiness Kim Chong-in has also been boycotting his work, calling for the resignation of floor leader Lee Hahn-koo, whom he has been butting heads with over economic reform.

Park, however, is reportedly determined to take all existing members along in her campaign.

An alternative has also been suggested for Lee to rescind his campaign role as the election committee’s honorary representative but stay on as a floor leader.

Party insiders said Park will concentrate on convincing the disgruntled campaign men before announcing the additional election committee lineup on Thursday at the earliest.

“The matter will be settled soon,” Park said.

“I do not think that in the public’s eye there are a certain type of people that work on reform and others that work on unity. They should be working together.”

It was reported that Park is also working to bring in Park Sang-jeung, former co-head of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and former chairman of the board for the Beautiful Foundation, to serve another high post on the election committee.

Han, meanwhile, remained adamant that he would stay with the campaign, saying, “It leads me to think that (Ahn) is extremely political,” Han said at a radio interview when asked about Ahn’s threat to leave the campaign upon his designation.

“Discussing a personnel issue by making a personal attack publicly is not appropriate when trying to make an objective evaluation of an individual,” Han said.

Alarmed by Park’s teetering race against the opposition contenders, calls among the reform-forward lawmakers have been growing over the past few days for the resignation of the party’s leadership and the pro-Park members to pave the way for political reform.

Apparently distraught by the mushrooming conflict, Park had tried to dismiss the demands as a “power struggle” on Monday but met with senior members later in the night to discuss countermeasures when even the former members of her emergency committee called for her to change her secretariat, who has been by her side since her political debut in 1998.

Former lawmaker Chough Soon-hyung of the main opposition Democratic United Party, who was invited to speak at the Tuesday symposium, also criticized Park for trying to exercise too much power and a reclusive leadership style in his keynote speech.

“The Saenuri Party must break down the one-person rule system and the one-person protocol system to recover the partisan system that is democratic,” Chough said. “It is due to this that Park’s support ratings are falling without any sign of a rebound, which leads to conflict and disharmony within the camp.”

The reformist lawmakers, meanwhile, continued their calls for a wider reshuffle.

“The core aides of Park are those that make things comfortable for her. None of the party’s leadership, such as chairman Hwang Woo-yea, give Park any true or sincere advice,” Rep. Kim Sung-tae said.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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