NATIONAL

Park vows fair probe into election scandal

By Korea Herald

Opposition accuses president of evading responsibility for civil servants’ alleged political activity

  • Published : Oct 31, 2013 - 20:15
  • Updated : Oct 31, 2013 - 20:15

President Park Geun-hye enters a meeting with senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday.
(Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
President Park Geun-hye broke her silence Thursday about the raging controversy over state agencies’ alleged electioneering in last year’s presidential poll, and vowed that all suspicions would be clarified and due measures taken.

Riding high on the sweeping by-election wins the day before, Park expressed regret that pressing administrative issues had been put on the backburner by the “political issues of the past.”

“Even though I have not engaged in any activities personally to warrant suspicion, there are allegations that state organizations were involved in the election. I will certainly have such allegations clarified to the public and identify any responsibility that needs to be taken,” Park said while presiding over the first meeting with her senior secretaries in four weeks.

Her position differed little from her original stance that the alleged negative campaigning by the National Intelligence Service was unrelated to her but pertinent to her predecessor. But it was one of the lengthiest statements Park has made yet concerning the volatile dispute that has spilled over to the legitimacy of her presidential win.

Park has been facing heated offensives from the main opposition Democratic Party that accuses the NIS, the military and the Veterans Affairs Ministry of organizing an online smear campaign against their candidate, and has been demanding the president address the “glaring issue on the table” as Park’s silence became protracted.

Buoyed by Park’s confidence and the landslide by-elections win that earned one of the Saenuri Party’s oldest veterans his ticket back to the mainstream, the ruling camp is expected to more confidently shun the opposition and push on with its administrative drive.

Suh Chung-won, who won in Gyeonggi Province with a whopping 62.7 percent of the vote, showed off his loyalty to the president by saying in his acceptance speech, “I was able to win in this region thanks to the incredible popularity of the president and active support from the Saenuri Party leadership. I have no other desire but to play my role so that President Park can successfully lead state administration.”

Adding that what public wants foremost is for the political establishment to focus on stabilizing their livelihoods, Park also said, “The government will thoroughly investigate and impartially take necessary measures once the judiciary’s decision is made and prepare means to prevent any reoccurrences.”

Taking aim at the DP’s use of “democracy” as their reason for fighting, Park went on to say, “There is much talk of democracy. (But) ever since I became a politician, I have strived to maintain the principles of democracy and democratization of the party. Such conviction remains the same and my ultimate purpose going forward is to activate the country’s economy and to open the happiness era for the people.”

She added that mature democracy would come from upholding the judiciary instead of prejudicing its decisions and politicizing them.

Park‘s remarks drew angry outbursts from the already-demoralized DP, floundering over an internal power struggle aggravated by another major election defeat since the presidential election.

Branding Park’s remarks “irrelevant and ridiculous,” the DP slammed Park for turning a blind eye to her share of responsibility.

“How are the NIS’ illegal interference in the election, the involvement by the military’s cyber command, the Veterans Affairs Ministry and the Labor Ministry a matter of the past? Who is protecting them, is it former President Lee Myung-bak? Who is meddling with the investigation by throwing out the chief prosecutor and chief investigator while chanting about law and principle?” DP spokeswoman Bae Jae-jeung said. She was referring to the controversial resignation of former prosecutor general Chae Dong-wook and the removal of chief investigator Yoon Seok-yeol from the NIS probe team.

The DP also criticized Park’s vision of democracy by saying, “How is downgrading the ruling party to become a ‘cat on her lap,’ and repeatedly shunning the opposition’s demands democracy and internal party democratization?”

Despite the DP plan to kick start round two of their attacks with the hearings for Park’s recent selection for the chiefs of the prosecution, the Board of Audit and Inspection and the Welfare Ministry, Park looks to highlight her forthcoming European tour next week instead.

The Saenuri Party is also seen gearing up to pass the budget and Park’s key economic-related bills.

“The (election) outcome was the people’s judgment against the opposition party that is engrossed in political strife while neglecting the public’s livelihoods. The Saenuri Party will modestly remind ourselves of the people’s message and respond to the support by bolstering the economy together with the newly elected parliamentary members,” said Saenuri floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan during a party meeting.

Park, during her speech, also urged her secretaries to work on passing the bill for foreign investment promotion, estimated by the government to be capable of creating 2.3 trillion won in investment and about 14,000 new jobs, as well as the tourism promotion and housing market-related tax bills.

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