North Korea Hits Lee Hoi-chang as Fanatic
by Korea Times
North Korea's state-run newspaper criticized Thursday the run for the presidency by Lee Hoi-chang, former chairman of the Grand National Party (GNP), who maintains a hard-line policy toward North Korea.
The Pyongyang Shinmun's criticism was the first response among North Korean media outlets to Lee's third bid for the country's top post.
North Korea's Korean Central Television aired a Pyongyang Shinmun article, titled ``Daydream of a political fanatic,'' which negatively describes Lee's run.
However, the government-run broadcaster didn't
report the article in detail.
It is unusual for Pyongyang Shinmun to report a critical article on South Korean politics because the four-page daily mainly covers soft issues such as health and cooking. The North's main state-controlled Rodong Shinmun newspaper generally covers politics.
North Korea experts think the North's disapproval of Lee comes as no surprise because the former GNP leader is considered a presidential candidate who holds the most hostile policy toward North Korea.
The North Korean authorities have actually enjoyed more favored attitude than ever from both presidential candidates Lee Myung-bak of the conservative GNP and Chung Dong-young of the liberal United New Democratic Party (UNDP).
Since appointed as the GNP's standard-bearer for the presidency in August, the former Seoul mayor has said that he will approach North Korean affairs with engaging policies.
``Probably, North Korea understands the GNP has changed in terms of its policy toward North Korea,'' Lee said in a recent meeting with reporters.
The GNP, which had long maintained a very conservative and hard-line stance over North Korea, changed its position to more engaging one in June. The party agrees now it is possible to give humanitarian aid to Pyongyang even before its denuclearization.
Observers said the big change in the GNP's North Korea policy is designed to prevent North Korea from attacking the GNP presidential candidate at a critical time before the election.
In fact, North Korea had criticized presidential candidates before for their tough stance over North Korea.
Kim Choong-nam, researcher at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said the GNP's effort to appease North Korea is understandable because North Korea's intervention in the presidential election can always be possible.
``The role of North Korea will be another important factor in the race,'' Kim said.
The GNP's policy change is also to counter Chung, who inherited former President Kim Dae-jung's ``sunshine policy'' and paved the way for the inter-Korean economic cooperation such as Gaeseong Industrial Complex.
As President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised to expand the two Koreas' economic cooperation during their summit last month, there will be more joint projects.
Meanwhile, Lee Hoi-chang, 72, tried to brand himself as an ultra-conservative candidate so that he can differentiate himself from other candidates.
Declaring his bid Wednesday, the former Supreme Court judge made it clear that he would like to keep the national security intact from the current government's engaging policies toward North Korea.