North Jeolla Province denouncing comments made about North Korea by Father Park Chang-shin during a special mass held by the Jeonju diocese of the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice
By Seok Jin-hwan, Blue House correspondent, Kim Su-heon and Cho Hye-jeong, staff reporters
Key figures in the government and ruling party - including President Park Geun-hye, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, and Saenuri Party leaders - unleashed a barrage of criticism on Nov. 25 in response to comments made on Nov. 22 by priest Park Chang-shin. During a special mass calling for Park’s resignation held by the Jeonju diocese of the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPAJ), Father Park Chang-shin mentioned North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
Nov. 25. 12 other conservative groups were present on that day. (Yonhap News)
During her morning meeting with Blue House secretaries, President Park referred to Father Park’s comments. “There have been a lot of activities that are stirring up confusion and divisions,” the president said. “Do not intend to tolerate behavior that hurts the public’s trust and divides people.” Park had previously brought up the fact that Nov. 23 was the third anniversary of North Korea’s provocative shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
Park continued by saying, “Not only has North Korea failed to show contrition for its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, it continues to threaten to turn the Blue House into a sea of fire. National security cannot be preserved through cutting-edge weaponry alone. Even more important is the patriotism and the unity of the people.”
The remarks made by Prime Minister Chung were even more strident. During an emergency meeting of senior officials, Chung criticized Park Chang-shin’s remarks as “destructive to the country and supportive of the enemy.”
“Park Chang-shin may be a priest, but he is first and foremost a citizen of this country. Not only is he parroting the arguments of North Korea by making statements that violate the basic duties of a citizen, he is also overlooking North Korea’s provocative action. We cannot turn a blind eye to this. He must be held responsible for his actions,” Prime Minister Chung said.
In a meeting of the supreme council of the Saenuri Party, party leader Hwang Woo-yea said, “We must be cautious and pay careful attention to allegations that efforts to reject the results of the presidential election really picked up after North Korea recently issued orders for an anti-government campaign in the South.” Hwang’s remarks basically make it sound as if calls for Park to resign are connected with orders from Pyongyang.
Hwang also continued to blame the opposition parties for the remarks. “Since the Democratic Party, the Justice Party, and independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo have established the so-called ‘new opposition alliance’ with the civic groups that are calling for the resignation of the president, they need to make their position clear on the activity of these groups.”
After the ruling party launched the blistering attack focusing on isolated remarks in the special mass, the Democratic Party responded that the point of the mass was on the illegal actions of state institutions ahead of last December’s presidential election and the attempt to cover these up.
During the supreme council of the Democratic Party, party floor leader Jeon Byung-hun criticized the attack from the Park administration. “The Blue House and the Saenuri Party are trying to use farfetched arguments to cover up the state institutions’ illegal actions and to link the priest’s comments with us. This is political scheming and manipulation of public opinion.”
Analysts believe that the ruling party sees Park Chang-shin’s remarks as a chance to turn around the political situation and has accordingly launched a full-out assault.
“The point of the special mass was to call on the president to step down, but the attack is only focusing on the comments about Yeonpyeong Island,” said political commentator Yu Chang-seon. “The attack on pro-North Korea elements seems to be aimed at shutting down calls for the president to resign before they can spread to other parts of the religious establishment.”
CPAJ will hold a national meeting on Dec. 11 and the progressive monks order will hold a meeting on Nov. 28 at the Jogye Temple in Seoul where they are expected to release a manifesto calling for the Park administration to repent for its violations of democracy. A group of protestant priests are also scheduled to hold a meeting and a fasting and prayer session between Dec. 16-25 calling for Park’s resignation.
“If the ruling party continues its ideological attack, they may have more to worry about than the allegations about government agencies interfering in the election. This could also have an impact on passing the budget bill and other legislation related to the people’s livelihood,” said Yong In University professor Choi Chang-ryul.
“The ruling party needs to resist the lure of describing everything in terms of security. The opposition party must clearly set itself apart from the demands for the president to resign so as to stop giving the ruling party grounds for attacking it,” Choi said.
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