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Hong still railing against inter-Korean summit

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party’s barrage of criticisms against a recent inter-Korean summit may be causing fissures in the party.

On Tuesday, Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo continued his attacks, warning that politics swept up by the atmosphere always fail.

“What I intended (through hard-line remarks) was to raise concerns, and that we need to look at the situation with levelheadedness,” Hong said in a post on his Facebook account

“It is good that the government dragged the North Korean dictator to dialogue. But it is foolish to cheer the coming of spring after a single swallow returns.”

Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)
Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)

Hong’s remarks Tuesday appear to have softened from his previous remarks, as he had reportedly faced complaints from members of his party.

Only a couple of hours after the leaders of the two Koreas announced their joint statement Friday, Hong called the inter-Korean summit a “fake show of peace” orchestrated by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“They wrote down what Kim Jong-un dictated as the joint statement,” Hong said in a statement Friday. He also said the “abnormal” agreement was possible through secret negotiations between the “national liberation front” of the South’s liberal administration and the North.

His remarks were met with backlash from the citizens and rival parties, as they appear run counter to the prevailing public sentiment.

Opinion polls showed that the public mainly held positive view of the inter-Korean summit, with eight out of 10 South Koreans saying the summit was an achievement. According to a survey by the Korea Society Opinion Institute, 85.9 percent of 1,018 respondents said the inter-Korean summit achieved results, while 11.3 percent said it had not, and 2.7 percent either said they did not know or did not respond.

Even lawmakers from the conservative bloc appeared to distance themselves from Hong, expressing concerns over Hong and the party’s leadership, particularly those running in the June 13 local elections.

Geonggi Gov. Nam Kyung-pil, who has announced his bid for a second term, praised the inter-Korean summit as a start of the journey for peace.

Kim Tae-ho, the conservative party’s candidate for South Gyeongsang Province governor, openly criticized Hong’s remarks, saying he had gone “too far.”

“There should not be a division between the ruling and opposition and conservatives and liberals when it comes to the agenda of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Chairman Hong should also be cooperative this time,” Kim said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Incheon Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok, who is affiliated with the Liberty Korea Party, also condemned Hong and the party’s leadership, saying their “senseless” and “irrational” attitude is making it harder for the party to gain public trust.

While the Liberty Korea Party’s position has come under attack, some experts say that the party’s leadership has little choice.

“The sharp words may not be suitable. But the Liberty Korea Party does not have any other choice, but to take a strong stance against the liberals to maintain their ratings,” politics professor Shin Yul from Myoungji University told The Korea Herald.

“Besides, if the outcome of the planned summit between the US and North Korea is not as good as expected, the conservative party will have something to say to regain trust from the voters.”

According to Shin, the Liberty Korea Party is waiting for the summit between the US and North Korea, which is expected in May, as it could change the political dynamics entirely. Even if the US-North Korea meeting is a success, the conservative party would still be able to accept the results because its voters are mainly pro-US, Shin said.

“As for the candidates bidding for a position in the upcoming local elections, they cannot spare one vote to the rival, so they are adopting different stances (from the party’s leadership),” he said.

In a poll by Realmeter on Monday, the conservative Liberty Korea Party garnered 21.1 percent of support from 2,502 respondents, far behind the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, which posted at 52.2 percent. The center-right minor opposition Bareunmirae Party stood at 6.1 percent, while the far-left Justice Party followed with 5.2 percent and the center-left opposition Party for Democracy and Peace ranked last with 2.7 percent.

President Moon’s approval rating edged up by 2.2 percentage points after the inter-Korean summit, posting at 70 percent in the same poll.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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