Par­ties, can­di­dates pos­ture for pres­i­dency in South Korea.

Dozens desert Park, may back Ki-moon

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY KIM TONG-HYUNG

SEOUL | While lawyers des­per­ately tried to re­store the pow­ers of im­peached South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, pol­i­tics ad­vanced with­out her Tues­day as par­ties and po­ten­tial can­di­dates pos­tured for elec­tions that could take place in just months.

Dozens of law­mak­ers split from the con­ser­va­tive rul­ing party and likely will try to cre­ate a party field­ing out­go­ing U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Mr. Ban’s po­ten­tial ri­vals re­acted by ques­tion­ing his pres­i­den­tial cre­den­tials and tout­ing their own ideas, in­clud­ing sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy changes in re­gard with re­la­tions with nu­clear-armed North Korea and al­lies United States and Ja­pan.

Choung By­oung-gug, one of the 29 law­mak­ers who left the Saenuri Party ac­cused Ms. Park’s loy­al­ists in the party’s lead­er­ship of “ne­glect­ing the val­ues of real con­ser­vatism” and “shame­lessly de­fend­ing the his­tor­i­cally worst in­fringe­ment of con­sti­tu­tional val­ues.” More Saenuri law­mak­ers may leave the party in the com­ing weeks.

The split came as in­ves­ti­ga­tors widened their in­quiry into the scan­dal sur­round­ing Ms. Park, who has been ac­cused of al­low­ing a long­time con­fi­dante of ma­nip­u­lat­ing gov­ern­ment af­fairs and col­lud­ing with the friend to ex­tort money and fa­vors from the coun­try’s big­gest com­pa­nies. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors sum­moned a for­mer pres­i­den­tial aide as well as the for­mer health min­is­ter over the de­ci­sion to sup­port the merger of two Sam­sung af­fil­i­ates.

The spe­cial pros­e­cu­tion team planned to sum­mon the pres­i­dent’s jailed friend, Choi Soon-sil, but she re­quested a de­lay cit­ing health rea­sons.

Mr. Ban, com­ing off two terms in the U.N.’s top job, is seen as the best hope for con­ser­va­tives to win the Blue House af­ter Ms. Park’s col­lapse com­pli­cated pol­i­tics for her party. Re­cent opin­ion polls show vot­ers slightly fa­vor Mr. Ban ahead of lib­eral politi­cian Moon Jae-in, who con­ceded the pres­i­den­tial race to Ms. Park four years ago.

In a re­cent meet­ing with South Korean re­porters in New York, Mr. Ban, a for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, de­scribed the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil at home as heart­break­ing and said he was ready to “burn” his body in de­vo­tion for South Korea, his strong­est hint yet that he would run for pres­i­dent.

Kim Ky­oung-soo, an op­po­si­tion law­maker who serves as Mr. Moon’s spokesman, dis­missed the plans by the Saenuri de­fec­tors to cre­ate a new party for the pres­i­den­tial race, say­ing “wa­ter­mel­ons can’t be made by draw­ing lines on zuc­chi­nis.”

Mr. Kim said vot­ers “will not ap­prove a po­lit­i­cal reshuf­fle that lacks sin­cere re­morse and self-re­flec­tion, and only chases the delu­sion of recre­at­ing a pseudo con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.”

Mr. Moon likely would have to with­stand a chal­lenge from out­spo­ken Seong­nam city mayor Lee Jae-myung in the Demo­cratic Party’s pri­maries.

Mr. Lee, who brands him­self as an anti-es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure and is com­pared to both Don­ald Trump and Bernie San­ders, saw his pop­u­lar­ity rise amid the rage over Ms. Park’s scan­dal. He calls for stronger poli­cies to re­duce the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor and curb the ex­cesses of “chae­bol” — the large, fam­i­ly­owned con­glom­er­ates that dom­i­nate the coun­try’s econ­omy.

In a meet­ing with re­porters on Tues­day, Mr. Lee said Mr. Ban’s pop­u­lar­ity could soon de­cline over al­le­ga­tions that he “used a high-pro­file post to gain per­sonal prof­its,” ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to al­le­ga­tions raised by news re­ports that he took bribes from a busi­ness­man in 2005 and 2007. Mr. Ban has de­nied the claims.

Mr. Lee also said South Korea should stop the de­ploy­ment of an ad­vanced U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem to de­fend it from North Korea. Echo­ing Mr. Moon’s po­si­tion, Mr. Lee said the se­cu­rity ben­e­fits of hav­ing Ter­mi­nal High-Al­ti­tude Area De­fense, or THAAD, are di­min­ished be­cause of the an­gry re­ac­tion from China, which sus­pects that the sys­tem would al­low U.S. radar to bet­ter track its mis­siles.

The date of any early pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is de­pended on the out­come of the im­peach­ment case against Mr. Park.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Out­go­ing U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon is seen as the best hope for con­ser­va­tives to win South Korea’s pres­i­dency af­ter Park Guen-hye’s fall.

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