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[Newsmaker] Opposition lawmaker touches off drone furor

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Published : 2014-04-15 21:18
Updated : 2014-04-15 21:18

A lawmaker of the main opposition party in South Korea has once again found himself at the center of a spiraling dispute ― this time over spy drones presumably from North Korea.

Rep. Jung Cheong-rae of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, known as one of the party’s more prominent hard-liners, has taken a leading role in controversial issues such as the developments surrounding state agencies’ alleged meddling in elections.

On Friday, Jung argued that there was a “high probability” that the drones found in northern regions of South Korea were not sent by North Korea. 
Jung Cheong-rae ( Yonhap)

Jung claimed that the font used on the labels found inside the drones was not the usual type used by North Korea, and that the serial numbers on the labels also did not match the style used by Pyongyang.

Jung has since defended his remarks, saying that he did not claim that the developments surrounding the drones were plotted by the South Korean government, and accused the ruling party of McCarthyism.

Despite Jung’s attempts to clarify his position, the ruling Saenuri Party has not eased its barrage against the main opposition, calling for the NPAD to clarify its position.

Amid the controversy stemming from Jung’s comments, NPAD cochairman Rep. Kim Han-gil issued an indirect warning on Tuesday.

Describing each NPAD lawmaker as “a face of the party,” Kim advised lawmakers to practice caution as the public takes the opinions of individual lawmakers to be those of the party.

Kim’s warning, however, appears to have had little effect on the hard-liner.

At the meeting, Jung said that the party should push for the dismissal of the defense minister, while he would “fight for the freedom of speech of a parliamentarian.”

“The ruling party attacks, while the leaders of the same party warn … I will fight for the freedom of speech of a parliamentarian on behalf of the people,” Jung wrote on his Twitter account.

Jung has also engaged in public bickering with Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Jin-tae on social networking services.

On Saturday, Kim Jin-tae wrote on his Twitter account that Jung was pro-North Korea, and that Jung should go to the North, saying, “Go back to your home country.”

Jung responded in kind by writing, “Kim Jin-tae, are you dying to go to prison? (I) will send you to prison, your refuge,” on his SNS account.

While politicians from the two main parties engage in a war of words, the claims that the drones may not be of North Korean origin are spreading on the Internet.

Believers in the conspiracy theory claim that the drones are unlikely to have come from North Korea, citing their light weight and limited operation radius due to their low fuel capacity.

The spread of such claims has been aided by left-wing personalities including Kim Eo-jun, the host of the left-leaning podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda.”

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

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