Progressive candidate steals debate show by blasting Park Geun-hye

Posted on : 2012-12-05 14:15 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Lee Jung-hee of the UPP knows she won’t be president, but came to first debate to “bring down Park Geun-hye”
 Unified Progressive Party candidate Lee Jung-hee
Unified Progressive Party candidate Lee Jung-hee

By Lee Tae-hee and Shin Seung-keun, staff reporters

Presidential candidates Park Geun-hye, Moon Jae-in, and Lee Jung-hee clashed in their first televised debate on the evening of Dec. 4 over the issues of presidential leadership, political reforms, abuse of power, North Korea policy, and foreign policy.

During the debate at MBC studios in Seoul’s Yeouido neighborhood, Park presented herself as a “prepared female president who will work for the public’s livelihood,” while Moon, the Democratic United Party candidate, said he would be a “the first president of a new era” after unseating Park’s Saenuri Party (NFP). Lee, the Unified Progressive Party candidate, called on the public to put the NFP government on trial, saying her aim in appearing at the debate was to “bring down Park Geun-hye.”

Park started off by noting predictions of economic crisis in 2013, saying she would demonstrate “the leadership to overcome crisis, a leadership of trust and unity.” She also criticized the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-2008) in her concluding remarks, arguing that the election would be crucial in determining whether the country would move towards the future or back to a failed past.

Moon countered by calling on voters to remove the Saenuri Party from office.

“If you feel that the Lee Myung-bak administration has been wrong for the past five years, then you need to change things,” he said. “Otherwise, neither our politics nor our lives will change. Do you think the Lee Myung-bak administration was all right? If you don’t, you should choose me.”

On the topic of inter-Korean relations, Park said she was willing to hold a summit meeting with Pyongyang if necessary, adding that there would be “no preconditions” to dialogue.

But she also took a swipe at past administrations’ Sunshine Policy toward North Korea.

“Peace bought with extravagant gifts is a false peace,” she said. “True peace is achieved through trust-building efforts on the foundation of a strong deterrent.”

Moon responded by contrasting the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration’s record with North Korea to that of the progressive Roh administration.

“The Lee administration emphasized security, yet we saw holes made in our security with the sinking of the Cheonan and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island,” he said. “Even the recent undetected defection across the armistice line can be called an example of national security incompetence. Meanwhile, there was not a single military clash during the five years of the Roh administration.”

Lee Jung-hee grilled Park over whether she had received 600 million won (US$553.6 million) from her father Park Chung-hee’s secret fund gifted by former President Chun Doo-hwan just after the former’s assassination in 1979. Lee said on that matter, “At the time, you could have bought 30 apartment buildings with that amount of money.”

Park acknowledged receiving the money. “He said he was offering it as a consideration at a time when my father had just been shot to death and I wasn’t sure how my younger siblings and I would survive,” she explained. “I didn‘t think it through and just accepted it.”

She added that she plans to “give it all back to society later.”

Experts who watched the debate said the seemingly unprepared Park failed to score any major points, while Moon projected a sense of dignity but lacked command. Only Lee Jung-hee was seen as giving a standout performance.

Some observers said Park and Moon performed roughly equal compared to each other, while others said Moon triumphed. But Lee, the Unified Progressive Party candidate, emerged as the clear star of the show with her dual-barrel blasting of Park from start to finish.

Decrying the Saenuri candidate as the “queen of uncommunicativeness, self-righteousness, and arrogance,” she reeled off a litany that even made reference to collaboration with Japan by the candidate’s father. She also pressed Park into promising to return the money given to her by Chun after her father’s death.

Responding to the moderator’s early question to the candidates about presidential leadership, Lee described it as “a leadership of sympathizing, communicating, and listening. What Park Geun-hye has shown is arrogance and self-righteousness. If she goes to the Blue House, she’ll be the ‘queen.’ We do need a female president, but not a queen.”

Lee also went after Park when talking about ideas for resolving popular distrust of politics, asking, “Who is responsible for the politics that side with the big chaebol or the red-baiting tactics?”

Park fired back at Lee, saying that a president “has to have clear view on the state. Does [Lee] plan to do the pledge of allegiance if she becomes president when she won’t even sing the national anthem?”

Lee rebutted the claims, saying, “I have done the pledge of allegiance. Get your facts straight before you ask questions like that.”

She went on to attack the inconsistencies between Park’s words and actions.

“She blocked legislation that would preserve neighborhood commercial zones,” she said. “She said she would abolish irregular employment, and then blocked a plan to make the minimum wage the average wage. She’s no different from Marie Antoinette saying, ‘Let them eat cake.’”

Lee proceeded to attack Park Chung-hee’s history of collaboration with Japan and his Yushin administration.

“Masao Takaki - Korean name Park Chung-hee - signed a blood oath of loyalty to the Japanese emperor, and his Yushin administration was intended to protect the country from ’leftist communist sympathizers,‘” she said. “The Saenuri Party and Park Geun-hye are the roots of collaboration and dictatorship and do not have the right to sing the national anthem.” Upon hearing this, Park’s face turned red and was overtaken by a stern expression.

Lee went after Park once again when the Saenuri candidate talked about cracking down on abuses of power by administration figures and their associates with a permanent special prosecution system.

“Park Geun-hye has lived off a salary of stolen property,” the UPP candidate said. “The 600 million won she received from Chun Doo-hwan was money Park Chung-hee received from the conglomerates. She needs to pledge to step down as president if any corruption is discovered among her associates.”

Later in the debate, Park renewed her attack on Lee, asking her why she “keeps appearing in debates while continuing to call for [the opposition] to unite behind a single candidate” and whether she plans to bow out in the later stages.

Lee responded by saying, “If you remember one thing, remember this. I intend to bring down Park Geun-hye. I want to replace [Saenuri] with a progressive administration.”

After the debate, Lee said, “A lot of people have been feeling frustrated, and I opened up and spoke on their behalf.”

Internet users were mixed in their assessments. Many praised Lee for stealing the show. One wrote that she “states facts on the air that haven’t been spoken before. I applaud her courage.” Another said, “It was thanks to Lee Jung-hee that I learned Park Chung-hee was a Japanese collaborator,” while others called her performance “exhilarating.”

But others were more critical.

“Lee Jung-hee needs to learn some debate etiquette before coming out,” wrote one Internet user. Another said, “She did speak well, but she also avoided saying things that could have been problematic for her.”


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