The ruling party's presidential candidate, Park Geun-hye, said Friday she plans to clarify her position on the controversial legacy left behind by her father, the late President Park Chung-hee, as the issue has continued to hurt her campaign ahead of December's election.
The 60-year-old candidate of the conservative Saenuri Party came under fire last week after claiming there were "two verdicts" over the execution of eight anti-government demonstrators in 1975 during her father's rule. The victims were cleared in 2007, after a court ruled they had been tortured into making false confessions about trying to rebuild a disbanded pro-communist group "Inhyeokdang," meaning People's Revolutionary Party, in violation of the anti-Communist act.
Park also sparked controversy in July by saying her father made "the best choice in an unavoidable situation" in reference to the 1961 military coup in which he took power.
Asked by Yonhap News Agency whether she plans to comment on the controversy during her upcoming trip to the southeastern port city of Busan, she replied, "I'll (handle it) at an appropriate time."
She then added, "In any case, I plan to clarify (my position) overall."
The candidate was at her party's headquarters in Seoul to film a video for the Chuseok holiday at the end of this month, which is the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving Day.
Party officials have hinted that she may shed the historical baggage during her visit to Busan on Monday, with only days to go before the crucial Chuseok holiday and given the city's past of staging massive protests against her father's dictatorship. The visit was planned because public opinion in South Korea's second largest city has turned sour toward Saenuri in recent years due to a drop in the popularity of incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.
The fact that Park's main rivals for the country's top elected office are from the Busan area is affecting the ruling camp's position in the city that had in the past been a bastion of support in elections. The main opposition Democratic United Party's presidential candidate Moon Jae-in grew up in a neighboring area and independent Ahn Cheol-soo was born in the port city.
"By taking steps to end the debate that has haunted Park, she plans to redouble her efforts to pursue her campaign of national unity," a party source said.
He said that Saenuri is also moving to set up its official election campaign office before Chuseok that could include key officials or notables who played a part in the liberal Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations.
The Chuseok holiday period, which this year falls between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, has often been a turning point in rallying support behind presidential candidates.
The late President Park ruled the country with an iron fist until he was gunned down by his intelligence chief in 1979. Assessment of that period remains divided between those who hail his accomplishments in achieving rapid industrialization in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War, and those who resent his brutal crackdowns on any form of dissent. (Yonhap)