S. Korean conservative party figures make amends, for now

Posted on : 2022-01-07 16:12 KST Modified on : 2022-01-07 16:12 KST
The People Power Party’s campaign for president has been marred by infighting
People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol clasps hands with party leader Lee Jun-seok at a party caucus held at the National Assembly on Thursday evening. (pool photo)
People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol clasps hands with party leader Lee Jun-seok at a party caucus held at the National Assembly on Thursday evening. (pool photo)

A dramatic reconciliation took place Thursday evening between People Power Party (PPP) presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol and party leader Lee Jun-seok, who had previously clashed over the management of the PPP election committee.

This came 16 days after Lee stepped down as the committee’s standing chairperson, declaring that he had “no role” within it. But the potential for future conflict remains, with still-unresolved controversy surrounding Yoon’s key associates and the possibility of clashes over Lee’s authority as party leader and Yoon’s authority to make decisions on party affairs as its nominee.

Attending a party caucus at the National Assembly on Thursday, Yoon declared, “As [the party’s] candidate, all fault lies with me.”

“It’s time to move on from the past for the sake of a greater cause, and for us to put behind us whether there were any misunderstandings or not,” he added.

He also said that Lee was “chosen as leader by all of you and by the people of South Korea.”

“The party leader, me, and all of you need to join forces to bring about victory in March,” he said.

While attending the general lawmakers’ meeting earlier that afternoon, Lee had a “final debate” with lawmakers who had pushed for a resolution calling on him to step down as party leader. In a closing statement afterward, he said, “While there may be differences among us on the path to an electoral victory, please don’t question my sincerity.”

“Dialogue and communication are always possible unless you question a person’s sincerity,” he added. “We can also dialogue at the party caucus.”

“I will work toward victory in the election,” Lee told his party.

Lee also said he planned to “have a candid conversation with [Yoon] today or tomorrow.”

“Hopefully, our mutual misunderstandings can be cleared up and we can carry out a campaign that impresses the public. I also hope to be able to make it up to all of you in the process,” he told the lawmakers.

He further said that he had “never for a moment doubted that our candidate will be elected, nor have I let go of the hope that our candidate will be elected.”

“Today, I stand here declaring us to be one team,” he continued, drawing cheers from the attendees. Following the declaration, the lawmakers withdrew the resolution urging Lee to step down as party leader.

After being pushed to the brink with the demands for his ouster, Lee managed to avert a crisis by staging a dramatic reconciliation with Yoon on Thursday. Analysts concluded that Yoon had passed the first test of his leadership by patching things up with Lee after his decision the day before to part ways with former election committee chairperson Kim Chong-in.

But the same issues concerning Yoon’s key associates that triggered the conflict in the first place remain a threat. Other potential landmines include the matters of the by-election that will take place alongside the presidential election on March 9, as well as the authority for nominations in the local elections taking place in June.

This means that while the more explosive conflict has been contained for now, it could erupt again at any time.

By Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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