Fundamental rifts within S. Korea's conservative party come to fore on campaign trail

Posted on : 2022-01-04 17:23 KST Modified on : 2022-01-04 17:23 KST
Yoon’s trailing poll numbers are cause for concern for the main opposition party
People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol takes the elevator at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo District on Monday morning after abruptly canceling his remaining campaign stops. (pool photo)
People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol takes the elevator at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo District on Monday morning after abruptly canceling his remaining campaign stops. (pool photo)

The election committee running the presidential campaign of Yoon Suk-yeol, candidate for South Korea’s People Power Party, launched a large-scale reshuffle on Monday that will entail rebuilding the committee from the ground up. Yoon is facing a grave crisis as he loses ground in the polls and as his campaign is torn by division.

The election committee’s reorganization was prompted by a sense that Yoon may not have any future as a candidate unless his standing in the polls recovers by mid-January. But there are considerable doubts about the effectiveness of the reorganization given Yoon’s lack of introspection over scandals concerning his character and leadership.

“The standing chair and co-chair of the election committee, the head of the general headquarters and the chair of the new generation preparatory committee have all tendered their resignation to Yoon,” said Lee Yang-soo, a senior spokesperson for the PPP election committee, on Monday.

The simultaneous resignation of the top officials on the election committee — including chair Kim Byeong-jun, co-chair Lee Soo-jung, and new generation preparatory committee chair Kim Han-gil — is part of a plan to reorganize the election committee from scratch.

“We will carry out a complete reorganization of the election committee. We have decided that the only way to conduct a proper election is to reorganize the committee in line with popular sentiment since the committee is currently under pressure from public opinion,” said Kim Chong-in, general chair of the election committee, in a meeting on Monday morning.

“The restructuring that this will involve will require the resignation of the leadership of the general headquarters,” Kim added.

Kim had rebuffed demands for new leadership at the election committee from both inside and outside the party, maintaining that a complete reshuffle wasn’t feasible just two months before the election.

But Yoon’s polling numbers have continued to slip due to his frequent gaffes and muddled messaging and because of party strife triggered by party leader Lee Jun-seok’s withdrawal from the election committee. That apparently pushed Kim to support completely reorganizing the election committee by appointing new leaders.

The sense of crisis was exacerbated by several recent opinion polls that showed Yoon trailing Lee Jae-myung, candidate for the ruling Democratic Party, by more than the margin of error. After attending the opening ceremony of the Korea Exchange on Monday morning, Yoon canceled the rest of his planned campaign stops.

The PPP’s leadership in the National Assembly, including floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon, policy committee Chair Kim Do-eup and deputy floor leader Choo Kyung-ho, also announced their resignation on Monday.

“As floor leader, I resolved to take the lead in the personnel reshuffle, with the thought that I should take responsibility instead of blaming other people,” Kim Gi-hyeon explained during a conference of PPP lawmakers on Monday afternoon.

But some see the floor leadership’s actions as representing an attempt to persuade Lee Jun-seok into resigning.

“We need to put all our strength behind regaining the presidency under our candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, and we must give Yoon full authority to represent and lead the party and the election committee with the plan of replacing everyone except for him,” said Jun Joo-hyae, a party spokesperson, in a briefing following the lawmakers’ conference.

By calling for Yoon to be given “full authority” and for the campaign to be reorganized around him, Jun appears to have been targeting Lee Jun-seok, who has been “sniping” at his own party and candidate from the margins.

While the resignation of the election committee chair was being announced on Monday, there was some confusion about whether Kim Chong-in had also tendered his resignation. The list of resignations announced by Lee Yang-soo, the senior spokesperson, initially included Kim Chong-in’s name. But Kim flatly denied that he was resigning, which prompted speculation about whether he was in open conflict with Yoon.

“All claims that I’ve tendered my resignation are nonsense,” Kim said in a telephone call with the Hankyoreh. Lee Yang-soo tried to clear up the confusion during a meeting with reporters. “I heard from Yim Tae-hee, head of the general headquarters, that Kim Chong-in had tendered his resignation, but that wasn’t what he meant. There appears to have been some miscommunication between the two of them.”

But since the current crisis was brought on by the candidate himself, others are doubtful that reorganizing the election committee by itself will solve the problem on a more fundamental level.

“It’s the candidate himself who keeps causing problems. How can that be resolved by merely changing the leadership of the election committee? It’s important for Yoon to sense what he’s done wrong and what he needs to change and then to tackle issues that only he can resolve one at a time,” a PPP lawmaker said.

In other words, a leadership reshuffle spearheaded by Kim Chong-in probably won’t be enough to boost Yoon’s standing in the polls.

By Jang Na-rye, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles