Park not to tolerate attempts to seek social divisiveness after priest's remarks on N.K.

SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye said Monday she won't tolerate or overlook any attempts to cause social division in South Korea after a Catholic priest made remarks justifying North Korea's deadly 2010 artillery attack on a border island.

The priest, Park Chang-shin, made the remarks Friday during Mass urging Park to resign over allegations that state agencies, including the National Intelligence Service, tampered with last year's presidential election with online political postings in favor of her.

The cleric also strongly discredited a government finding that the North torpedoed a South Korean warship in 2010 in waters near the Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas, saying the communist nation could not have mounted such a highly sophisticated attack.

The remarks caused an uproar among conservative South Koreans still resenting the two deadly attacks. A total of 50 South Koreans, including two civilians, were killed in the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of the warship Cheonan.

"There are many things happening that break the morale of our soldiers ... and make their sacrifices go down the drain," Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries. "I and the government won't tolerate or overlook these things that let people's trust fall and cause divisiveness."

The remark was seen as criticism of the priest, though she did not directly mention him.

North Korea is one of the most divisive issues in South Korea.

Park also stressed the importance of national defense, saying it takes not only state-of-the-art weapons, but also "people's patriotism and unity" to defend the country.

"Should North Korea attempt surprise provocations again, we have to respond sternly and make it never attempt them again," she said.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won directly criticized the priest.

"This is an act of destroying the Republic of Korea and siding with the enemy," Chung said during an emergency meeting with senior officials, according to his office.

"Priest Park's remarks speak for North Korea's logic and support North Korea's inhumane provocations that ... claimed the lives of innocent residents. We can never sit by and (he) should take responsibility," Chung said.

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