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[Newsmaker] Ruling party nomination race turns ugly

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Published : 2014-05-06 21:05
Updated : 2014-05-06 21:23

Former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and “Park-sim” continue to muddy the waters for the ruling Saenuri Party, with less than a week until the party picks its Seoul mayoral candidate.

The term “Park-sim,” which literally translates as “Park’s heart,” refers to President Park Geun-hye’s intentions or having her support.

Kim’s tenure as prime minister was relatively uneventful and uncontroversial, which allowed him to hold the post for record-breaking two years and five months.

His time as a potential Seoul mayoral candidate for the ruling party, in contrast, has been riddled with controversy from the outset, with rumors circulating that he had the support of the president.

Although rumors that Kim had Park-sim behind him appeared to subside, the controversy was reignited on May 2 during the second televised debate with the Saenuri Party’s other two contenders, Rep. Chung Mong-joon and Supreme Council member Lee Hye-hoon. 
The Saenuri Party’s Seoul mayor hopefuls Rep. Chung Mong-joon (left), Supreme Council member Lee Hye-hoon (center) and former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik participate in a policy debate in Seoul on May 2. (Yonhap)

At the event, Kim implied that Park was involved in his decision to run for office, saying that the president was among those who recommended the move.

Lee immediately hit back, saying that the president’s involvement in elections was an impeachable action, and accused Kim of using the president to gain an edge.

Despite the strong reactions from his rivals, Kim only added fuel to the fire on the following day by making similar claims on his Facebook account.

Kim wrote that “people who wish for the success of the Park Geun-hye administration, and of Korea” suggested he run for Seoul mayor and that these individuals were supporting his campaign.

“And I think that this is (according to) President Park Geun-hye’s wishes,” he added.

Chung has since warned of legal consequences for Kim, and called for the party to take steps.

“Kim’s comments could even generate legal issues. The party’s nomination committee should take appropriate action,” Chung told reporters Sunday.

Lee, a well-known member of the ruling party’s pro-Park Geun-hye faction, has since called for Kim to step down from the running.

“In pursuit of votes (Kim) has not only put the entire party in danger, but made comments that could put a country’s president in grievous danger,” Lee said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Kim’s comments also appear to have given the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy another angle of attack on the administration and the ruling party.

“Seoul’s min-sim is cold as (concern for) the people is absent and only Park-sim is in full bloom in the Saenuri Party’s Seoul mayor primary election,” NPAD deputy spokesman Heo Young-il said.

Heo said Kim’s claims would inevitably be taken as fact if Cheong Wa Dae stays silent, and that Seoul citizens would be disappointed if Park responded with “her characteristic indifference.”

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

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