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(LEAD) Jailed ex-president Park urges conservative forces to unite

All News 21:43 March 04, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS parties' reactions in paras 8-11)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- Park Geun-hye, an impeached former president of South Korea, stepped back into politics Wednesday while in prison by sending a message calling for the country's conservatives to unite ahead of the April 15 parliamentary elections.

In a handwritten letter made public by her lawyer, Yoo Young-ha, Park asked them to come together around the "existing giant opposition party." Yoo read the letter aloud at a press briefing he held at the National Assembly.

Park was apparently referring to the main opposition United Future Party (UFP), headed by Hwang Kyo-ahn, who served as prime minister under her administration.

"The nation is in big trouble. Although there could be differences and gaps that are hard to fill, I appeal to you all, who held up 'taegeukgi,' to join forces as one, centered on the existing giant opposition party, for a better Republic of Korea," she wrote.

Taegukgi is the Korean word for South Korea's national flag.

It was a message to politicians and voters who are still loyal to her, as they are known for staging street rallies while waiving the South Korean national flag, which earned them a nickname, "Taegeukgi unit."

Former President Park Geun-hye's lawyer, Yoo Young-ha, holds up her letter from prison at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

"I will be with you united as one," Park added, apparently seeking to help the opposition bloc form a united front against the liberal Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling Democratic Party in the upcoming poll widely viewed as a de-facto mid-term election for the president.

Her message drew sharp criticism from liberal parties.

"(Park's message) is tantamount to a declaration that the UFP is her party and that she will actively intervene in the elections," Je Youn-kyung, a spokesperson of the election committee of the ruling Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Her act of demagoguery in prison, as if she were a victimized politician, is nothing but a denial of the public's decision to oust her."

Oh Hyun-joo, spokesperson of the minor Justice Party, also released a statement rapping it as "a pathetic form of politics."

"(We) cannot but rage over her shameless behavior of using the COVID-19 virus crisis as an opportunity to establish her political position."

Park said her heart is breaking over the news that more than 4,000 residents in Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang Province have been infected with the new coronavirus. The regions, located about a three-hour drive southeast of Seoul, are Park's political home turf and a traditional stronghold of what's now the main opposition party.

Park was sworn as South Korea's president in 2013 and served until being impeached in 2017. She is serving a prison term of more than 20 years after being convicted of corruption.


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