Liberals gather for Roh's memorial
By Kim Jung-yoon
Opposition figures vowed to win the upcoming December presidential elections during a memorial ceremony for the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, Wednesday.
They expressed their resolve during the event marking the third anniversary of Roh’s death in his hometown Bongha Village, South Gyeongsang Province Wednesday.
“The people are mourning the tragic death of the former president three years ago. Achieving a shift in power in the December election through the citizen spirit he emphasized would be a way of remembering him,” said Rep. Park Jie-won, interim leader of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).
Roh’s bereaved family and his followers visited his resting place and birthplace in the village, where his ashes are enshrined.
Roh committed suicide by jumping off a cliff behind his retirement house in Bongha village on May 23, 2009. The 62-year-old was under mounting pressure from a probe into alleged acts of bribery involving his family and aides.
Participants in the memorial service included Kwon Yang-sook, Roh’s widow, and Moon Jae-in, who served as his chief presidential chief aide.
Several lawmakers, including Park and Rep. Kang Ki-kab, interim leader of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), and actor-turned-politician Moon Sung-keun joined the hour-long ceremony, led by the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation.
A stream of mourners from across the nation also flocked to the southern rural town bearing white chrysanthemum flowers to express their condolences in honor of the late former president.
Among the participants, Moon Jae-in drew attention because he is a strong DUP presidential hopeful and a former close confidant of Roh’s. He is expected to announce his presidential bid in early June.
Observers assume that the pro-Roh affiliates will gather to pledge support for Moon in the upcoming election.
The so-called pro-Roh group began to emerge as a substantial political force after Roh’s death. It secured further footing in the June 2 local elections in 2010, when his closest aides Ahn Hee-jung, Lee Kwang-jae and Kim Doo-kwan became the governors of South Chungcheong, Gangwon, and South Gyeongsang Provinces.
In addition to some 30 pro-Roh members elected as provincial chiefs and local representatives, 50 members won in the 19th National Assembly elections.
It remains to be seen, however, whether nostalgia for Roh ahead of the country’s presidential election slated for Dec. 19, will help Moon to compete against the ruling Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye, the strongest conservative candidate in the presidential race.
Pundits say that it is highly risky for Moon to depend on the sentiment toward Roh.
The anniversary of Roh’s death is also likely to shed light on the ongoing strife within the Unified Progressive Party and its internal power struggle.