Democratic United Party nominee Moon Jae-in apologized Thursday to independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo over his campaign officials’ inappropriate behavior that prompted the Ahn camp to suspend negotiations for a single candidacy.
But Ahn did not ease his position, casting a cloud over the future of the progressive bloc coalition for the Dec. 19 election.
On Wednesday, Ahn’s camp suspended the negotiations on the candidate selection method in response to continued reports citing DUP sources as saying that Ahn would yield to Moon. In addition, online comments from Moon’s former political aide Baek Won-woo regarding Lee Tae-kyu’s past ties to the Saenuri Party and alleged violation of negotiation rules by Kim Ki-sik are said to have contributed to “built up reasons” that prompted Ahn’s side to step back from the table.
The talks on the candidate selection method had kicked off on Tuesday, six days after Ahn and Moon announced that their campaigns would be merged, and a single candidate selected to represent the progressive bloc.
“There are bound to be stumbling blocks here and there, but I apologize to the public for stopping as soon as (the talks) were started,” Moon said at an event in Busan on Thursday.
“I would like to apologize (to Ahn) if people in our camp did anything to pressure or aggravate the other side. The fullest efforts will be made to prevent such events and I would like to ask Ahn’s side to resume the negotiations.”
He continued to stress the point throughout the day. Speaking at a press conference in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province later, Moon said that “all necessary measures” would be taken and appealed to Ahn to return to the “arena of negotiations.”
Moon also revealed that he had conveyed such messages to Ahn in two phone conversations on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
In addition to Moon’s apology, co-chair of his election committee Kim Boo-kyeom indicated that measures to appease Ahn’s concerns would be introduced.
Moon’s camp quickly followed up requesting Ahn to accept the DUP candidate’s “sincere apology,” and that official guidelines have been issued to avoid any actions that could fuel misunderstandings under Moon’s orders.
Ahn’s side, however, appears far from appeased.
“To tell of my feelings, rather than of Moon’s comments, (I) felt a deep disappointment,” Ahn told reporters, avoiding a direct answer to Moon’s apology.
“(I) think that the process is more important than the result in unification, that the candidate who is selected through a process of persuading the two sides’ supporters will be able to achieve administration change and political innovation.”
He went on to say that as things stand, the progressive bloc would not be able to win.
“But, if this (the unification process) is thought of as competition and becomes hung up on the result rather than the process, the candidate who wins (in the unification process) can’t win the presidential election.”
The former academic’s aides were less reserved.
“Using the organization to spread false propaganda against the other side, making up stories and spreading them systematically are the exact opposites of new politics we aim to achieve,” co-chair of Ahn’s election committee Song Ho-chang said.
While Moon’s camp scrambled to restart the talks, the ruling Saenuri Party put the developments down to a political show acted out to a “prearranged scenario.”
“Halting negotiations, then discord, and a dramatic meeting of the candidates that results in a dramatic agreement; this is the arranged scenario,” Saenuri Party’s Rep. Kim Sung-tae said in a radio interview on Thursday. He added that the progressive bloc would enact increasingly dramatic situations if an atmosphere supportive of their victory over Saenuri candidate Park Geun-hye was not established.
Kim also speculated that Moon would be the eventual winner, saying that it would be difficult for an individual without organizational backing to win against one with such support.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com