Seizing on momentum created by a former foreign minister’s memoir, which put the opposition’s top presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in in a fix, the ruling Saenuri Party carried out a full-scale attack against the liberal heavyweight Moon on Tuesday.
The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea countered the attack, accusing Saenuri of political maneuvering in an attempt to divert the public’s attention away from deadlock over the corruption scandals involving President Park Geun-hye’s close aides.
The scandal, however, showed little sign of abating. Some political watchers now say the issue may linger on for months, exerting significant damage on Moon ahead of the presidential election slated for December next year.
“This is not just about evaluating the sayings and doings of an individual politician, but about restoring the (nation’s) damaged diplomatic stature,” said Saenuri Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun at the party’s emergent meeting.
Moon Jae-in (center) conserves with Song Min-soon (right) in this file photo from April 2007. (Yonhap)
The given dispute stemmed from the book “Moving the Glacier,” a political memoir published last week by Song Min-soon, who served as foreign minister under the former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun administration while Moon was presidential Chief of Staff.
Song argued that the Roh administration had decided to withdraw a vote after hearing negative response from the North, which conflicted with a claim by former government officials that the decision had been made before contacting the North.
Saenuri’s chief also reiterated his earlier use of the controversial expression “covertly colluding” to describe Moon’s alleged inquiry to North Korea back in 2007 about whether Seoul should vote to adopt the UN resolution condemning Pyongyang’s human rights situation.
“A matter that may decide the people’s fate should not be discussed covertly,” Lee said.
“Yet (Moon) did it in secret, which leads to suspicions that there may have been other similar cases (of covertly contacting the North).”
Floor leader Rep. Chung Jin-suk, too, blasted Moon, especially on his recent claim that he did not “remember the details” of the disputed event.
“Should the memoir be true, this is an abandonment of sovereignty and an obvious treason to the nation,” he said.
“Moon keeps changing his words, without even clarifying the suggested suspicions. It is hard to believe that a man like this assisted the president.”
The party’s vice floor leader Rep. Kim Do-eup refuted the opposition’s claim that Saenuri was using the issue to launch an ideological attack on presidential hopeful Moon.
“Our goal is not to launch an ideology-based battle against Moon, but to find out the truth about this sensational case and to report it to the people.”
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, while refraining from detailed comments, is expected to mention the issue in the president’s meeting with senior secretaries.
The top officials’ meeting, which was suddenly called off Monday, is likely to take place Thursday, just a day before the parliamentary state audit on the Blue House.
Facing such mounting aggression, Minjoo set forth a counterargument, defending its former chairman and accusing the ruling party of clouding corruption scandals.
“The Saenuri Party is riding on a melting glacier, which will soon disappear like a mirage,” said floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho at a party meeting.
Key party officials also discredited Song’s memoir, claiming that the then-Roh government’s communication with the North was but a notification of an already-made decision, not bilateral consultation.
“Saenuri is a party which raised a groundless suspicion, which turned out to be false, and never apologized for it,” said Rep. Kim Kyung-soo, one of the closest aides to Moon.
He was referring to an allegation raised in 2012, ahead of the presidential election, that the late President Roh had tried to nullify the inter-Korean sea border in the West Sea -- the Northern Limit Line. The suggestion is seen as having delivered a substantial blow to then-candidate Moon.
Meanwhile, Moon remained reticent over the memoir dispute, even expressing uneasy feelings over related questions.
“I understand that you agreed not to ask those questions,” Moon said, in answer to reporters’ questions during his visit to a child care center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province.
“You should go ask your questions to those who have a good memory (of the 2007 UN resolution and the related discussion back then).”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)