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Rivals lay siege to Park’s presidential bid

By Song Sangho

Published : Feb. 14, 2011 - 18:55

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Contenders attack leading potential candidate for 2012 poll


Political competitors of former Grand National Party Chairwoman Rep. Park Geun-hye are moving to dampen her increasing efforts to keep the political pendulum swinging in her favor ahead of the 2012 presidential vote.

Park, the frontrunner among potential presidential candidates, has recently made moves toward her bid for Cheong Wa Dae, which included launching a think tank to map out her campaign strategies and introducing revision bills aimed at improving the nation’s welfare framework.

The factional leader, who commands the loyalty of nearly a third of the GNP lawmakers, has paid particular attention to social welfare policies among other politically-charged issues such as constitutional amendment.

Observers say she appears to be seeking to lead the social welfare agenda, looking to win public support and maintain her leading position in the run-up to the election in December 2012.
Rep. Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, responds to applause at a forum at the National Assembly last week. (Yonhap News) Rep. Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, responds to applause at a forum at the National Assembly last week. (Yonhap News)

In an apparent move to rein in her efforts, Rep. Chung Sye-kyun of the main opposition Democratic Party suggested that she hold an open debate over welfare policies. Her efforts to lead the welfare agenda have apparently unnerved him and other liberal politicians as the issue has long been led by progressive parties.

“There is a need to clarify whether her ‘Korean-style welfare’ has only a wrap and has not been filled with any content. I am not sure whether she is considering the date of revealing (the content),” Chung said in a PBS radio interview.

Park, daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, who is credited with his economic leadership in the 1960s and 1970s, but criticized for his authoritarian rule, tabled her revision bills aimed at establishing a more stable, effective social welfare system last Friday.

The bills seek to offer social welfare services ― differentiated to meet exact needs of citizens at each stage of their lifetime. However, the bills fell short of providing the details of state welfare policies Park has envisioned, critics say.

Launching his own think tank, Chung also said, “Park’s welfare policies are far-fetched. She doesn’t have any philosophy.”

Rep. Chung Mong-joon of the GNP, another potential presidential candidate, also made remarks apparently criticizing Park’s welfare policies.

“It is unavoidable (for politicians to engage in welfare issues) as politicians should talk about something good that would draw people’s attention and ensure their votes. However, shouldn’t we talk about the future?” he said in a radio interview.

“I feel apprehensive that all the people jump into the welfare issues when they lack abilities to talk about the future and vision.”

Another high-profile competitor of Park is Lee Jae-oh, minister of special affairs.

Lee has been on bad terms with Park since he led the 2007 election campaign for President Lee Myung-bak, who bitterly fought against Park to win the GNP ticket for the presidential election.

The minister has recently been leading political debate over constitutional revision, stressing the need to decentralize presidential power and share it with the prime minister.

Observers said such efforts have apparently upset Park, who is maintaining the lead in all recent popularity polls. She herself has expressed support for a constitutional revision, which would change the current single-term, five-year presidency to a system that would allow a president to serve two successive four-year terms.

“It makes citizens feel tired to work as if ... (he or she) had almost become a president two years before the election,” Lee said last Friday in a radio interview. “I will stand face to face with the strongest person for the constitutional amendment.”

Although he did not mention her by name, it was widely said that he was referring to Park.

Lawmakers in the pro-Park faction expressed displeasure over the remarks, saying that Lee is moving to hamper Park’s activities toward the presidential election while seeking to bring pro-Lee Myung-bak lawmakers together for the constitutional amendment.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)