|Representatives of Daegu's scholars, businessmen, politicians, journalists, doctors and religious groups held a press conference at the city council building on Dec. 6 to publicly apologize for having voted for President Park Geun-hye in the 2012 presidential election and for having endorsed her since. / Courtesy of Hankook Ilbo|
By Ko Dong-hwan
On Dec. 6 in Daegu, where President Park Geun-hye was born in 1952, the city's 1,386 leaders publicly apologized for having voted for her in the 2012 presidential election and for having endorsed her since.
Representatives from the city's scholars, businessmen, politicians, journalists, doctors and religious groups held a press conference at the city council building and admitted their shame and ignorance in having chosen the now scandal-plagued head of the state.
Behind the leaders was a banner reading, "Letter of apology from Daegu about the scandal involving Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil" ― referring to Park's longtime friend, who abused her relationship with Park to illegally amass private assets and interfere in state affairs.
The backdrop also said, "We are ashamed of Korea, Daegu and us." The leaders introduced themselves as "People who will lead to new Daegu."
"Before criticizing the President for her unredeemable betrayal that has caused disappointment, irreconcilable outrage and shame, we, as citizens of Daegu, are shameful of ourselves," the leaders said as they read the letter, according to Hankook Ilbo.
They bowed as they apologized for "endorsing a certain political party for the last 30 years" based on geopolitical attachment, making the city "the party's undisputed turf without whistleblowers," and acting as "a midwife who helped deliver the lowly president."
"We had voted for Park in appreciation of her father, former President Park Chung-hee, who had saved us from famine, in sympathy for her who lost both parents in separate assassinations, and in a belief that she could not be corrupt because she has neither husband nor children," the letter added.
"But she was proud of herself, far from being communicative, allowing Choi to meddle in state affairs, destroying constitutional orders and stamping on citizens' trust."
The leaders concluded with promises to transform Daegu into "a progressive city with political diversity and cultural openness" and "adjust the constitution to give the city more autonomy to make it invulnerable to presidential dictatorship."
Remorse towards the President, whose impeachment will be determined at the National Assembly on Dec. 9, has spread across the city of 2.5 millions. Eighty percent of them voted for President Park in 2012.
People of the city's eight districts have been hosting separate anti-Park rallies for the past weeks. In Jung-gu, tens of thousands of protesters held candlelit demonstrations, while people in Seo-gu, the city's most conservative district, also plan to take to the streets on Dec. 8 demanding the President's immediate resignation.
Seo-gu, with 84 percent of its votes going to Park in 2012, has not had an anti-president demonstration in decades.
|President Park Geun-hye looks around Seomun Market in Daegu, Dec. 1, after part of it was burned to the ground by a huge fire a day earlier. / Yonhap|
Questionable visit to Seomun Market
Early in the morning on Nov. 30, the city's biggest traditional market, Seomun Market, was swept by a huge fire that destroyed nearly 700 stores in the zone four building.
The fire continued until the next day, sweeping the old 15,300-square-meter concrete structure, built in 1976 and housing 839 shops, most of which sold inflammable materials like clothes, bedding units and curtains.
Park visited the market on Dec. 1, her first outing from Cheong Wa Dae since she was embroiled in the corruption scandal that has virtually cut short her presidency, originally due to run until December 2017.
But her visit, which lasted a mere 10 minutes without meeting a single victim whose store was burnt to the ground, was utterly lackluster, fueling public anger already as fierce as the fire that destroyed the market.
"Ten minutes! Are you kidding?" Do Gi-suk, a clothing retailer whose store was burned down, shouted in a video clip recorded at the scene. He was one of the people who thought that the President would at least go around the affected merchants.
Political analysts and commentators lambasted Park's visit, labeling it a "political show" or "jaunt."
The President's market stunt particularly angered Daegu city office employees, many of whom took it personally.
They lamented, saying things like, "Did our city support this woman to become president?" and called the visit a "hodgepodge," according to DongA Ilbo, a local daily.
The President had notified the city of her visit a day before but cancelled it the next day morning. It turned out she also gave Cheong Wa Dae press corps the slip by giving wrong information about her visit to the market ― the presidential office said Park would arrive at 3 p.m., but she appeared at 1:30 p.m. Reporters checking damage at the market accidently spotted her.
The only civilian Park met and talked with during the visit was Kim Young-ho, leader of the market's merchants' association.
|Members of Park Sa Mo support President Park in a rally in Seomun Market, Dec. 1, after she paid a brief visit to the place that was burned down by fire a day before. The members clashed with people, including those whose stores burned down, who criticized the President for not meeting the victims of the accidents. / Courtesy of Media Mongu|
After the President left the market, her supporters held a rally there, hailing her name and displaying a banner that said "Welcome" with a picture of the President smiling. The people were members of a civic group called Park Sa Mo, which literally means "Group of Park-loving people."
Park Sa Mo fueled anger at the site, especially upsetting people whose stores burned down.
"These cash-strapped victims borrowed money to run their business in this market. But look at them, chanting and supporting the President who stayed here only for 10 minutes," said a man, who claimed to be a representative of store owners from the zone four building, in a video by Media Mongu, a video journalism outlet.