South Korea’s ongoing presidential scandal took another strange turn on Monday, after loyalists to disgraced President Park Geun-hye claimed that the newly formed conservative party’s logo is pro-Juche and North Korean ideology.
The Liberty Korea Party, formerly known as Saenuri, renamed itself and announced a new start on Monday, seeking to distance itself from the scandal-ridden President.
But in the eyes of Park loyalists, the party’s new red-torch flag evokes North Korea.
“In Myung-jin, throw away the mask of the lie, and reveal your true ‘red’ identity,” a spokesperson for the biggest pro-Park group, Tankikuk said, criticizing Mr. In, the current interim leader of the party.
“That logo symbolizes the Juche Tower and is not a democratic (country’s) party’s logo. No South Koreans or party members will fall for your fancy words (about the explanation).”
Slightly taller than the Washington Monument in the U.S., Juche Tower in Pyongyang is the world’s tallest stone tower at 170 meters high. Finished on April 15, 1982, to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday, the torch on top is currently used as a logo for the DPRK’s state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).
“We’ve been fed up so far, but we can no longer tolerate you after seeing this logo for the new party… (In Myung-jin) go to North Korea,” the statement said.
“Was our Saenuri Party absorbed by the North Korean puppet regime’s Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)?” one Parksamo (a Korean acronym for a Park loyalist) commented on the online statement. “Drag In Myeong-jin out!” another member wrote.
The accusations have their roots in leader In Myung-jin’s long history of participating in NGO activities sending humanitarian aid to the North, an act often seen as “helping the regime” by conservatives.
As the founding member of the NGO Korean Sharing Movement, which has been active for more than two decades, In was awarded last year for his long-time efforts for unification and the reconciliation between the South and the North.
The party’s official website explained that the red torch symbolizes “freedom, passion, and the ‘torch’ that enlightens the world.”
But it was Park loyalists’ claims that made the headlines in South Korea outlets on Tuesday morning, claims which quickly drew responses from other right-wing figures as well.
“The ‘torch’ in North Korea de facto symbolizes Kim Il Sung,” Byun Hee-jae from MediaWatch said. “The red torch… this is no better than the party becoming the sub-branch to the North’s WPK,” Shin Dong-wook, a representative of the Republican Party, a minor right-wing party, said.
Out of the 299 seats in the South Korean National Assembly, Liberty Korea Party holds 94 seats, after a few dozen lawmakers split from the former Saenuri Party to form the alternative center-right Barun Party in December last year.
“No one sane in South Korea would seriously think that the party has used Juche Tower for its official logo,” Ha Seung-ju, head of the Northeast Asian Political Economic Research Center, told NK News. “Currently, the Liberty Korea Party’s approval rate is almost twice that of Barun Party.”
“While Barun does not have any candidate for the presidential race since Ban Ki-moon dropped out, Liberty Korea Party has Prime Minister Hwan Kyo-ahn as the possible candidate,” he added. “For South Korean conservatives, Liberty Korea Party would be the more favorable choice over Barun as it has a solid candidate.”
The scandal known as “Choi-gate” has seen North Korea used as a tool by both right and the left. Park has been accused of being “pro-North” over letters to North Korea sent before her presidency, and her attorney has claimed that protests against her were “led by Pyongyang.”
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons, Liberty Korea Party, edited by NK News
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