|The late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon / Yonhap|
Book endorsing Seoul mayor as next president released after his death
By Kang Hyun-kyung
"Killing Park Won-soon," the title of author Hwang Sei-youn's non-fiction book, is prophetic.
It was initially scheduled to be published Friday, the day Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was found dead on Mount Bukak, Seoul, after having gone missing. Police told reporters that Park was believed to have committed suicide, noting there was no evidence that could support murder.
The final draft of "Killing Park Won-soon" was completed, but the author put off its official publication until sometime after Park's funeral.
"I'm afraid that people could misinterpret my intention if I push for publication as scheduled," Hwang told The Korea Times over the phone, Saturday. "They would think I'm trying to profit from his death and sell my book. I'm not such an unethical, self-serving author."
Contrary to its title, the book was written to promote Park as the most qualified politician for the 2022 presidential election. The author chose the paradoxical title to claim that a plot to push Park out of the presidential race competition was under way inside the ruling party, and he was not popular among "inner circle members" who attempt to influence the selection of a presidential candidate to run in the election on the party's ticket.
The book reflects Hwang's personal view of the late Seoul mayor. The author is an aspiring politician who unsuccessfully ran in the April 15 National Assembly election for the minor Minsaeng Party.
It's ironic that a book written to promote Park was released on the very day he died.
Hwang said his heart was wrenching for the loss of his long-time friend and fellow democracy fighter. "I've been completely in shock since his death," he said. "I couldn't do anything since yesterday. I'm still overwhelmed by what happened to him."
Asked about the bizarre coincidence of the scheduled publication of his book and Park's death, Hwang, also founder and president of the publishing house Segil Academy, said the date, July 10, is a date publishers prefer when releasing books.
"Most of the times, we, publishers, release books on July 10, 15 or 20. I randomly chose July 10 as the date for official publication and there's no special meaning about my choice" he said. "The book is already out but I temporarily suspended its distribution to bookstores. The book will be available at bookstores after his funeral."
He said he didn't inform the Seoul mayor of his publication schedule.
"Killing Park Won-soon" is about saving Park and the author claims that in the ruling camp, Park was the most qualified politician for the 2022 election.
Hwang said the title of his book was a kind of marketing ploy to draw attention.
The author describes Park as a "transparent, committed and truly liberal" politician who could rescue the country from its current predicament.
He said Park was not popular inside the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), and it remained uncertain whether he could survive political infighting to win the tough competition to become the standard bearer for the liberal camp.
Once the competition for the presidential race heated up, the author said, Park would face a tough test as his opponents would try to discredit him to prove he was not presidential material.
In "Killing Park Won-soon," the author mentions several possible DPK presidential candidates. Former Prime Minister Rep. Lee Nak-yeon, Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung, and incumbent Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun are three of them.
Among the three, the author is highly critical of former Prime Minister Lee for his "suspicious" past record.
When President Chun Doo-hwan met then U.S. President Ronald Reagan for a summit in 1980, he said, Lee was a reporter for the Dong-A Daily newspaper and tried to curry favor with the the dictator. "He wrote several articles praising Chun (who rose to power through a military coup). In one article, Lee wrote Chun was a great leader. For his past record, he shouldn't be a DPK presidential candidate," the book reads.
|Forthcoming book "Killing Park Won-soon" by Hwang Sei-youn|
Describing Park as an odd man out, he said Park was "a stone rolled into the DPK." This means the late Seoul mayor didn't start his career as a politician and joined the political arena after he fought for civil rights as a human rights lawyer. Park had a weak support base inside the DPK because of his background, he said.
"Although he was a three-term mayor, Park couldn't handpick a vice mayor (because of political pressure from the ruling camp)," he said. In the Seoul Metropolitan City Government, there are three vice mayors ― two are for overseeing overall city affairs and the other is a political appointee.
The author claimed that Park didn't pick Im Jong-seok, who served as vice mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City Government from 2014 and 2015 before he was selected as President Moon Jae-in's first presidential chief of staff, for the position, saying Im himself "took the position."
"Killing Park Won-soon" is Hwang's analysis of the presidential election race and who will be chosen to run in the election on the DPK ticket. The book classifies ruling camp liberal politicians into three major groups depending on the degree of bonds with President Moon ― a core group consisting of two dozen politicians and two other loosely connected groups loyal to President Moon but with negligible influence.
The core group exerts real influence in the DPK. Many of them were radical liberals having fought for democracy in the 1980s when they were university students.
Hwang said they are the people who believe a president is made, not born, and they can influence the selection process, adding they will try to intervene in the DPK's selection of its presidential candidate.
Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung is ego-centric, whereas Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun is sociable, flexible but isn't tough enough to push for his agenda, the author commented.
Hwang said his analysis is based on interviews with informants. In Yeoido near the National Assembly, people gather at coffee shops and share behind-the-scenes political information. "Lawmakers meet at luxury hotel coffee shops, whereas those who lost elections gather at coffee shops in cheap motels. Those private gatherings are the main source of information that is not reported [in the media]," he said.