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Parties clash over controversial rally

Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon speaks at a party meeting on Tuesday. Yonhap
Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon speaks at a party meeting on Tuesday. Yonhap

The main opposition party has come under fire after some of its members joined a rally against Moon Jae-in that was held in defiance of disease control orders and was also attended by Jun Gwang-hun, a right-wing pastor who has been leading a campaign against President Moon Jae-in.

In response to the ruling party criticisms, leaders of the opposition United Future Party sought to distance themselves from Jun and the rally.

The pastor, who faces charges of election law violations, tested positive for the new coronavirus following the conservative rally in central Seoul on Saturday.

With Jun’s infection being confirmed Monday, speculation has risen that he had the virus when he attended the rally on Saturday. Authorities accuse Jun of defying the country’s anti-virus efforts by attending the rally because, although it was not organized by his church, it took place after a virus outbreak among members of his church came to light.

Jun and his church have also been accused of quarantine authorities’ efforts to carry out disinfections of the church, and tracking members of its congregation for possible infection.

Saying that interfering with epidemiological survey was a serious crime, Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, Kim called on the main opposition to take action.

“The United Future Party must make its position on Jun clear, and hold responsible the party members who defended (Jun).”

“(The United Future Party) should apologize to the people for effectively abetting the Aug. 15 rally,” Kim said, adding that that the main opposition party should have prohibited its members from attending the rally.

Rep. You Kwan-suk, deputy chief of the party‘s policy committee, also took issue with current and former United Future Party lawmakers attending the rally, claiming that it was an action that “clearly threatens the safety and lives of the people.”

United Future Party figures present at the rally include Rep. Hong Moon-pyo, and former lawmakers Kim Jin-tae and Min Kyung-wook. Hong has since defended his presence, saying that he stayed for about 10 minutes only to greet residents of his constituency who were attending the rally.

The main opposition, for its part, is distancing itself from Jun and the rally.

United Future Party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in branded the ruling party’s calls “childish politics,” and claimed that the Democratic Party was attempting to use the developments for political gain.

The main opposition’s floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young took a similar position on Jun, saying that the party has no connection to Jun, and that the only link between the pastor and the party was the personal relationship between Jun and former party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn.

Joo, however, said that the rally itself should not be looked at only in terms of the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking in a radio interview, Joo said that such rallies should not be held in light of the COVID-19 situation, but that the presidential office and the ruling party must listen to the message voiced at the rally.

“The fact that message against, and critical of the administration was voiced despite the risk of infection and heavy rain must be looked at in a different light,” Joo said, saying that the presidential office’s view on the rally was unbalanced.

The rally was held despite warnings from health authorities and Seoul Metropolitan Government prohibiting the use of the Gwanghwamun area, which prompted President Moon Jae-in to call for stern response from the government.

By Choi He-suk (