Ruling party riding on NK dispute
By Chung Min-uck
The ruling Saenuri Party is pushing security issues before the upcoming presidential election, capitalizing on the ongoing controversy over the pro-North Korea slant among certain members of the opposition parties.
Chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea and party leaders visited the 15th Army Division in Gangwon Province, Thursday, to encourage troops who face North Korean forces on the border. This was the third excursion of its type following a trip to a Marine Corp unit based on the West Sea island of Baengnyeong and an Army Training Center in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province.
Experts say, given that the 62nd anniversary of the Korean War falls on June 25, it is politically significant that the leadership is continuing to visit military bases further reminding the public of the possible threat from the North.
“Looking at election results in the past, the security issue represented by the North Korean threat failed to play into domestic politics,” said Yoon Hee-woong, director of the research and analysis department of the Korea Society Opinion Institute. “However, uncertainty over the North Korean regime following the power succession of the new leader Kim Jong-un and rows over pro-North Korea views in domestic politics have rekindled security concerns among the public.”
Some lawmakers of the left-wing Unified Progressive Party (UPP) are under the media spotlight recently for allegedly having pro-Pyongyang tendencies, and involvement in electoral fraud regarding the party’s proportional representation ballot in the April parliamentary election. The accusation spilled over to the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) after newly elected lawmaker Rep. Lim Su-kyung was quoted as saying that North Korean defectors were “traitors” to the North Korean regime. Of late, Rep. Lee Seok-ki of the UPP further fueled the controversy when he expressed disapproval of “Aegukka,” South Korea’s national anthem.
It is widely understood that conservatives have the upper hand over liberal parties in security issues because they adopt a more aggressive stance.
“Using its image as representative of conservatives, the Saenuri Party will try to capitalize on the situation to gain support from rightist and centralist voters,” said Yoon.
In line with this move, Hwang made controversial remarks Wednesday saying it was of considerable importance to “keep the Korea-United States Combined Forces Command intact” after the transfer of wartime operational control of troops on the Korean peninsula to the South Korean government occurs in 2015.
The Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command was established in 1978 to successfully deter a North Korean invasion.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the DUP led by Chairman Lee Hae-chan paid a visit to the 9th division of the Army in Gyeonggi Province to counter allegations of having a pro-Pyongyang stance.
Lee earlier came under fire for calling the Saenuri Party’s bill on North Korean human rights a “diplomatic discourtesy” to North Korea.