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Report linking Korea-Japan conflict with election stokes criticism

The ruling Democratic Party was hit with a barrage of attacks from opposition parties over a report by its think tank on South Korea’s conflict with Japan over Tokyo’s export restrictions and how the responses of the various political parties might affect the parliamentary elections next year.

The Institute for Democracy distributed the report to DP lawmakers Wednesday, and then said in a statement Thursday that “inappropriate content was distributed in an inappropriate way.”

Citing a poll, the report said Koreans preferred a principled and stern response to Japan, with the exception of traditional supporters of the Liberty Korea Party. It also said DP supporters believed that the way the ruling and opposition parties handled the current situation would affect the general elections.

The report said the situation would have a “positive” effect on the parliamentary elections.

The Institute for Democracy said Thursday that it did not agree with linking the conflict between Korea and Japan with the elections, and said it “will pay close attention to preventing a report that does not represent the official position of the think tank or the DP from causing misunderstandings.”

The three-page report, marked “confidential,” states the Institute for Democracy as the author.

Opposition parties lambasted the DP for seeking to use Japan’s economic retaliation politically.

LKP spokesperson Jun Hee-kyung (Yonhap)
LKP spokesperson Jun Hee-kyung (Yonhap)

“It is an abominable report that says even though the country is going down with the economic retaliation, they will use it for the general election,” main opposition LKP spokesperson Jun Hee-kyung said in a commentary.

“The ruling party was calculating the advantages and disadvantages to the general election when the whole nation was on alert.”

Jun accused the presidential office and the ruling party of scheming to exploit public sentiment for the election, adding that her party was awaiting a reply from President Moon Jae-in.

“The idea that they just need to win the general election whether the country falls or not is astounding,” said Bareunmirae Party spokesperson Kim Jung-hwa in a commentary.

“Saying that (the report) is not their official position is another show of irresponsibility.”

Minor liberal Party of Democracy and Peace spokesman Kim Jae-doo said the Institute for Peace must clarify whether it wrote the report at the official request of the DP.

He called on the DP to immediately dismiss the institute’s chief -- Yang Jung-chul, one of Moon’s closest associates -- and to apologize to the people.

Justice Party spokesperson Oh Hyun-joo said the report “struck a sour note when the people are stressing nonpartisan cooperation.”

The report cited a confidential survey by the Korea Society Opinion Institute, the results of which the KSOI said it had never disclosed to the Institute for Democracy. A KSOI official said someone seemed to have leaked it.

By Kim So-hyun (