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N. Korean Newspapers Take Stance on South's Elections - 2004-04-13

South Koreans head to the polls Thursday to vote for members of the country's Parliament. Neighboring North Korea is doing some campaigning of its own in the South's election. Just days before South Korea holds legislative elections, North Korea's two main newspapers have attacked the opposition Grand National Party, or GNP.

The Rodung Sinmun and the Minju Josun call the GNP a "traitorous political party" and a "den of political swindlers." They are calling on South Korean voters to deal the party a major loss at the polls.

The conservative GNP has traditionally taken a harder line toward the communist North than other South Korean parties, including the Uri Party, which is allied with President Roh Moo-hyun. But Pyongyang escalated its rhetoric against the GNP after it took a lead role in impeaching Mr. Roh last month.

North Korea says the impeachment caused political instability, which hampers dealings between North and South. President Roh is suspended from his duties for up to six months while the Constitutional Court rules on the impeachment. If the impeachment is upheld, he will be permanently removed from office.

Scott Snyder represents the Asia Foundation in Seoul. He says the North's commentaries are mainly irrelevant to voters. "There's relatively little interest or concern about what the North Koreans think about the South Korean election."

Mr. Snyder says the only major reference to North Korea during the campaign came from GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye. She is promising to visit Pyongyang if her party secures a major win.

But Mr. Snyder says even that promise was more a matter of domestic politics than foreign policy. "That was as much designed to project an image of activism and breadth and a kind of image of reconciliation," he says. "It actually obscures some of the differences between the GNP and the ruling Party."

North Korea, which tolerates no deviation from the absolute rule of leader Kim Jong-il, has not explicitly endorsed President Roh or the Uri party. But analysts say Pyongyang prefers an Uri government, which it perceives as more willing to set up inter-Korean exchanges.

North Korea has a vested interest in the outcome of Thursday's National Assembly vote. Parliament members will control South Korea's finances - a significant portion of which goes to aid the impoverished North.