Contenders for the People Power Party presidential nomination (left to right) Yoo Seong-min, Yoon Seok-youl and Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap News)
The camps of prospective presidential candidates in the People Power Party (PPP) are being criticized for adopting regressive approaches as they seek to capture party support with the primary entering its final stages.
Many of them have been bringing jailed former President Park Geun-hye into the mix and making statements damaging to gender equality as they adopt it as a wedge issue to target male voters in their 20s and 30s.
On Tuesday, the election camp of lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo announced that it had received an endorsement from former Korea Football Association President Park Jun-hong, the cousin of ex-President Park Geun-hye.
Park Jun-hong said that Hong had “pledged to revive the Saemaul Movement, to carry on and advance President Park Chung-hee’s spirit of national restoration, to restore the honor of former President Park Geun-hye, and to carry on former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil’s passion for East-West harmony and industrialization.”
“The families of President Park Chung-hee and Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil will take part in achieving what Rep. Hong has pledged,” he added.
Park Jun-hong, who is also the late Kim Jong-pil’s brother-in-law, was arrested in November 2010 for accepting money in exchange for regional election nominations after founding a party called the National Reconstruction Pro-Park Coalition.
His endorsement is seen as reflecting a sense of desperation in Hong’s camp as they try to mobilize their support base in the Yeongnam region by invoking family members of former President Park Geun-hye.
In an appeal to the public on Sunday, Hong pledged to immediately pardon Park and fellow jailed former President Lee Myung-bak if elected. During a visit to Daegu on Monday, he bowed his head and asked for “forgiveness for hurting the people of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province with the expulsion of President Park Geun-hye” from the United Future Party, the PPP’s previous incarnation.
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, a candidate in the PPP presidential primary, greets supporters on Tuesday following a press conference at Busan Station. (Yonhap News)
A competition to court pro-Park votes had been heating up between Hong and his chief rival for the nomination, former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
After an association of groups supporting former President Park Geun-hye endorsed Hong on Oct. 15, Yoon’s camp countered on Oct. 31 with a statement announcing that the leadership of the group Parksamo — meaning “people who love Park Geun-hye” — had declared their support for Yoon. This led to Lee Un-ju, co-chairperson of Hong’s election countermeasures committee, deriding those figures as a “fake Parksamo” and declaring, “The real pro-Park support is with us.”
Another trend is the use of gender as a wedge issue to target young men in their 20s and 30s who have recently begun supporting the party.
On Tuesday, former lawmaker Yoo Seong-min brought up a recent controversy surrounding actor Kim Seon-ho, who has been accused of pressuring his former girlfriend to have an abortion after having sexual intercourse with her under a false promise of marriage.
“This attitude of viewing all men as ‘potential predators’ needs to disappear,” Yoo wrote in a Facebook post.
At the same time, he wrote, “Sexual crimes that destroy people’s lives should be resolutely punished; for the same reason, we should also resolutely punish libel that destroys people’s lives.”
Yoo has been backing up his claims of “reverse discrimination against males” with calls to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in an apparent last-gasp bid for votes from men in their 20s.
Yoon also pledged to include libel provisions in the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment, etc. of Sexual Crimes while announcing his proposed youth policies. His stated aim was to “eradicate the crime of lying” about sexual violence.
Observers say that Yoon and Yoo’s calls for criminalizing libel in relation to sexual crimes are a regressive approach that ignores the reality facing victims of sexual violence, who often suffer secondary harm due to repeated demands that they “prove” their victimization.
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a candidate in the PPP presidential primary, greets supporters while paying a visit to Cheonan Central Market in the city of Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center criticized the presidential hopefuls for “antiquated politics that are only meant to stir up anti-feminist sentiment.”
Experts voiced concerns that the race among prospective presidential candidates in South Korea’s main opposition party is going beyond mere mudslinging and devolving into something more regressive and reactionary.
“As the prosecutor general who was responsible for investigating former President Park Geun-hye and the lawmaker responsible for her expulsion from the party, respectively, Yoon Seok-youl and Hong Joon-pyo are in a last-minute bid to clear up any unresolved ill feeling among traditional conservatives,” explained Choi Chang-ryeol, a liberal arts professor at Yong In University.
“They seem to be scrambling to propose a pardon for Park Geun-hye because they are certain that will appeal to the conservative support base, but it’s not an issue that’s going to draw in moderates,” he suggested.
Analysts say that the kind of regressive antics that have emerged as the race has heated up will end up proving toxic come election time.
“It’s a step backward for the PPP to be adopting this kind of ‘Park Geun-hye marketing’ — with its nostalgia for Park Chung-hee and shows of sympathy for Park Geun-hye — after the party has already stated several times that [Park Geun-hye’s] impeachment is a ‘river we’ve already crossed,” said Eom Gyeong-yeong, director of the Zeitgeist Institute.
“It isn’t good for the development of politics when the same conservative party that once celebrated its ability to capture the ‘post-bloc, post-ideology’ generation in their 20s and 30s is now behaving like this as the presidential race heats up,” he added.
By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter
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