By Chung Min-uck
The ruling Saenuri Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye criticized the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) for its flip-flopping stance over the free trade agreement with the U.S. (KORUS FTA).
The KORUS FTA has emerged as a key issue for the April 11 general election after the DUP pledged to scrap the pact early this month. It claims the agreement “lost its balance” following renegotiations by the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2010.
The trade pact was originally signed under late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007 and was approved by the legislatures of both countries last year.
“These are people who have already been judged by the public and who change their words according to their political status,”said Park during a debate hosted by the Korea Broadcasting Journalists Club in Sejong Center, Seoul, Monday. “The Saenuri Party is determined to fix this kind of politics.”
The main opposition party has recently been backing down from its stance on the KORUS FTA amid increasing criticism that the party is using the issue for its political purpose and the accusation that they have made a U-turn.
Many DUP members including party Chairwoman Han Myeong-sook were key Cabinet members back in 2007 and supported the free trade pact.
Analysts say the ruling party will continue to attack the DUP for its shift in position to gain the upper hand in the general election which is considered an indicator for the presidential election slated for December.
In the session, the ruling party chairwoman also called for the need to separate the ruling party from the Lee administration but was negative on the President leaving the party.
“I am not thinking of artificial breakaway (from the Lee administration). The differentiation will naturally come through the Saenuri Party’s reform measures,” said Park. “I don’t think the presidents leaving the party as has been the repetitive case in the past is an answer.”
As the elections near, the ruling party has been pushing welfare programs in favor of citizens in the low- and middle-income brackets distancing itself from the Lee’s growth-oriented policies which have been criticized for deepening social polarization here.
The conservative’s strongest presidential candidate also said that she will push for the construction of a new international airport in the nation’s southeast region. The project was scrapped by President Lee last year which Park said was “breaking a promise with the people.”
Analysts say Park’s comment on the project aims to woo the voters in the southeastern region of South Gyeongsang Province and Busan which have emerged as key areas in winning the upcoming elections. The region considered ruling party’s home-turf has recently been showing signs of change with opposition candidates leading the parliamentary race in many constituencies in hypothetical surveys.
Meanwhile, Park also said that she is open to join with potential presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo.
“It would be great to join hands with Ahn,” said Park. “You never know what will happen in the future.”