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Ruling party doubles down on mea culpa strategy amid trailing polls ahead of by-elections

All News 11:31 April 01, 2021

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- The ruling party on Thursday issued another public apology in admission of the failure in the party's housing policy and over a public sector land speculation scandal, asking for another chance to correct the party's policy blunders by voting for its candidates in the imminent by-elections.

"Following the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration, the Democratic Party (DP) has carried out many efforts to achieve social fairness and justice by ending wrongful norms and reforming powerful state institutions and has produced substantial results," Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, the party's acting chairman, said in a statement.

"But through the LH scandal, we have come to the bone-aching realization of our failure to tackle the deep-rooted systemic corruptions around the people's livelihoods that exacerbate social unfairness and inequity," he added.

The so-called LH scandal was triggered in early March when two civic groups alleged that employees at Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) bought plots of land in two cities -- Gwangmyeong and Siheung in Gyeonggi Province -- possibly based on insider knowledge before the government announced a massive development plan there.

Kim Tae-nyeon (C), floor leader and acting chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, holds a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

Kim Tae-nyeon (C), floor leader and acting chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, holds a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

The scandal is widely considered to have inflamed the already-high public mistrust in the DP and the government's real estate policy, which remains largely ineffective despite yearslong promises to control and bring down soaring housing costs.

"(We ask the public) to give the DP an opportunity to take responsibility in stabilizing the real estate market and resolve the problem housing supply shortage," Kim said.

Thursday's apology was the latest in the string of mea culpa statements from key members of the ruling party, apparently stoked by a sense of internal crisis within the DP amid trailing polls ahead of the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. Rep. Lee Nak-yon, the DP's former head and a co-chair of the party's election committee, issued a similar public apology on Wednesday.

One of the most recent opinion polls, conducted by Realmeter from Tuesday-Wednesday, showed Oh Se-hoon, the Seoul mayoral candidate from the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP), leading his rival from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), Park Young-sun, 57.5 percent to 36 percent.

Kim confessed that the DP's reform efforts "remained feeble in the face of surging housing prices" and that the party also failed to understand the hearts of the youth generation. "I'm aware that the rage and disappointment were high especially against high expectations. Regardless of the reason, the DP was ill prepared."

He also pledged to prioritize the eradication of real estate speculation as the party's top policy initiative, underscoring the DP's hard-line stance in terms of dealing with ongoing criminal investigations into the LH scandal.


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