Posted : 2012-12-16 23:10
Updated : 2012-12-16 23:10

Negative campaigning intensifies

Members of the ruling Saenuri Party, including Kim Moo-sung, second from left, who chairs the party's election strategy office, watch the TV debate between its presidential candidate Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party. / Yonhap

Candidates accuse against each other ahead of election

By Yi Whan-woo

With only two days remaining before the Dec. 19 presidential election, major presidential candidates engaged in fierce negative campaigning over the weekend, turning the election further uglier than ever before.

The conservative Park Geun-hye and her liberal rival Moon Jae-in accused each other of illegal electioneering since Dec. 13 when the revelation of opinion polls was banned.

Park's ruling Saenuri Party launched an attack on Sunday against Moon's main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) with suspicion of spreading false rumors on the survey result conducted by Youido Institute, the Saenuri Party's think tank.

Kim Moo-sung, the chief publicist for Park, criticized Moon's election campaign for allegedly posting mass number of comments on the social networking sites (SNS) that poll by the think tank showed Moon leading his rival by 2.5 percent.

"The case evidently shows that the DUP officials are involved in false propaganda," he said. "And they're even stealing the name of our strategy institute to convince the voters."

Democratic United Party members including former party Chairman Chung Se-kyun, front, watch the third televised presidential debate between their candidate Moon Jae-in and Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party at party headquarters in Seoul, Sunday.
/ Korea Times photo by Son Yong-seok

Lee Hoi-chang, a Saenuri Party member, held a press conference the same day and shared his experience as "victim" of negative campaigning. The former presidential candidate of the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the Saenuri Party, was the frontrunner in a number of surveys in the elections in 1997 and 2002. He, however, lost after rumors surfaced that he helped his sons to dodge military duties.

"I'm the victim of such malicious attack and pain still remains in my heart," he said. "The liberal party accused me of allegations which later turned out 100 percent false. I'd say negative campaigning is cancer cell and I urge voters not to be deceived."

Such criticisms came amid with the two-way race between Park and Moon becoming too close to call. The conservative has maintained a slight lead over the liberal in most of the surveys, but some of the polls on Dec. 12 showed the opposite result. For instance, Moon garnered 45.3 percent in the poll conducted by the Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, leading Park with 44.9 percent.

Both contenders had stressed repeatedly that they will focus on publicizing their policies instead of negative campaigning as a part of their efforts for political reform, which they all has agreed to achieve.

The alleged illegal electioneering mostly center on Park. Her election campaign is suspected of spreading malicious comments online against Moon under the support of the National Intelligence (NIS) and a private organization comprised of her followers.

And Jin Sung-joon, a spokesman for the DUP election campaign fired back on Sunday that "Park is behind all the schemes."

The DUP election campaign exposed on Dec. 11 evening that the NIS, the country's spy agency, ordered its agents to criticize Moon for the past three months on the online community including social networking services (SNS).

The claim came a day after Ahn Dae-hee, the chairman of the Saenuri Party's political reform special committee, said that any allegations in the final campaign week should be considered "sheer slandering."

"Such attacks only seek to target our candidate's reputation without giving her sufficient time to prove her innocence," he said.

The DUP instead widened its criticism against Park based on report from an anonymous informant. It, however, has not provided sufficient evidence to support its claim although a number of the party members for days blocked the office where a rookie agent in her 20s allegedly posted comments against Moon.

The intelligence flatly denied the allegation, claiming it never has been any political activities for this election. It added the office in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, is the agent's private residence.

The Saenuri Party also echoed a similar view.

"The allegation is based on groundless rumors and turned out to be a malicious attack," said Lee Sang-il, a party's spokesman.

The negative campaigning grew as the election watchdog on Dec. 13 ferreted a group of people who posted comments crucial of Moon on the Internet at a private office separate from the Park's election campaign headquarters in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.

Park Kwang-on, a spokesman for Moon's election camp, claimed that operator of the group, only identified by his last name Yoon, is related the conservative party and its candidate.

Chung Se-kyun, a senior advisor at the DUP, showed a similar response.

"This case is more serious than the allegation involving the NIS, as it was revealed by by the election watchdog," he said. "The conservative obviously has orchestrated illegal electioneering and the case could be only tip of an iceberg."

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