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Political schism festers on social media

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Published : 2014-01-27 20:16
Updated : 2014-01-27 20:16

Social media, once touted as a revolutionary new tool for approaching the public, is proving to be a double-edged sword for South Korean politicians.

Local politicians have used Twitter, Facebook and other social networking services extensively in recent years, particularly during election campaigns to deliver their views to the public.

However, SNS may have become a hard itch to scratch, particularly for the main opposition Democratic Party that continues to be plagued by discord among its factions.

The issue was raised at the general meeting of DP lawmakers Thursday, where party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil warned against making statements fueling discord through SNS.

“Attacking the party leadership through SNS such as Facebook and Twitter, or through interviews after keeping silent at general meetings of lawmakers does not help the party,” Kim was quoted as saying. Kim is also reported to have said that such actions were cutting the party’s support rate and requested DP lawmakers to voice their concerns in person.

“Shooting at the leadership from outside will make those on the other side more elated.”

The comments from the party chairman, who has wrestled with factionalism ever since taking office last year, were prompted by earlier comments from DP lawmakers regarding Kim’s statement on modifying the Sunshine Policy.

In his New Year press conference, Kim said that the Sunshine Policy ― a policy of engaging North Korea introduced by the Kim Dae-jung administration ― would be upgraded.

The comment, despite subsequent explanation that the policy’s principles would be upheld, did not sit well with the hard-liners.

“(Adjusting the Sunshine Policy) is a temporary measure for the elections, withering under (accusations of being) pro-North Korea, surrendering to security incompetence,” Rep. Hong Ick-pyo wrote on Facebook Monday. Hong is a first-term lawmaker associated with the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction.

Hong’s comments were followed on Tuesday by DP hard-liner Rep. Jung Cheong-rae’s tweet “(I am) wary of the DP moving toward the right.”

Kim’s warning, aimed at keeping internal discord within the party, appears to have fallen far short of the mark, with Jung once again taking to Twitter to dispute Kim.

Although such direct attacks at the party leadership is unusual, the DP is no stranger to discord flaring over SNS.

In December, Rep. Chang Ha-na disputed the result of the 2012 presidential election through an SNS account in December.

Chang’s actions went directly against the party policy, which has been carefully crafted to avoid disputing the election result while focusing on alleged election meddling by government organs.

Rep. Moon Jae-in, who ran for presidency as the DP candidate, has also been at the center of a number of spats sparked by SNS posts.

Throughout last year, Moon chimed in through Twitter to comment on controversial issues, often inciting fierce criticism from his main critic Rep. Cho Kyoung-tae.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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