Impropriety by Yoon’s wife triggers memories of Choi Soon-sil for some

Posted on : 2022-01-18 17:12 KST Modified on : 2022-01-18 18:21 KST
Revelations about Kim Keon-hee’s involvement in Yoon Suk-yeol’s campaign are hearkening back to Choi Soon-sil’s meddling in government administration
Kim Keon-hee, the wife of People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol, reads a statement at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeouido on Dec. 26 regarding allegations that she inflated her resume. (pool photo)
Kim Keon-hee, the wife of People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol, reads a statement at the party’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeouido on Dec. 26 regarding allegations that she inflated her resume. (pool photo)

The People Power Party (PPP) has been reacting sensitively to the controversy over Kim Keon-hee’s involvement in her husband Yoon Suk-yeol’s election camp, following Monday’s disclosure of recordings from seven hours’ worth of conversations between her and a reporter.

With indicators that Kim has been involved in managing the election camp despite holding no official position in it — as well as references to shamanism — the party is concerned that this could trigger voters to recall the 2016 scandal over Choi Soon-sil’s interference in government administration during the Park Geun-hye presidency.

In recordings shared by the MBC network on Sunday, Kim can be heard criticizing the PPP as “amateurs,” while also suggesting that she would be able to offer a campaign job to the reporter she was speaking to.

“I’m interested in having you be a part of our camp,” she told the reporter, whose surname is Lee, adding that if he did join, he would “have to do what I say.”

Kim also made remarks that suggested she was in de facto charge of the camp’s operations.

“There are people who move [the campaign]. For example, there’s [my] brother and a few others,” she told Lee, adding that when those individuals give directions, the rest of the campaign organizes around them.

She also suggested he could “come on board as head of the election strategy headquarters.”

It further emerged that Kim invited the reporter to her company, Covana Contents, and asked him to give a talk on campaign management, for which he was paid 1.05 million won, or US$885. She additionally made reference to various shamans, suggesting that she had sought their opinions on key matters.

Kim Eun-hye, head of communications for PPP’s election headquarters, said, “I don’t think it’s right for them to take the things Kim Keon-hee said out of pity for the reporter — who said he wasn’t earning a proper paycheck — and air it as though she was trying to buy off a journalist.”

Public relations aide Yoon Hee-seok said, “[Kim Keon-hee] is allowed to communicate as [Yoon’s] spouse with people who might be able to unofficially help the campaign, and she appears to have engaged in that kind of activity to draw in positive additions.”

But within the PPP, some voiced concerns that Kim’s remarks could raise the specter of government interference by outside figures that was one of the chief causes behind the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.

Indeed, Kim’s references to shamans were seen as reminiscent of Park’s inauguration ceremony in 2013 and other key national events where the president’s associate Choi Soon-sil — who has since legally changed her name to Choi Seo-won — made use of shamanic symbols, including “obangnang” bundles in the traditional five cardinal colors. The combination of outside influence and shamanism hearkens back to Choi Soon-sil — a major Achilles’ heel for South Korean conservatives.

“[Kim] met with a lot of ‘Taoist masters,’ and the concern is that if her mention of being interested in that is taken as anything more than a joke, it could remind people of Choi Soon-sil,” said one prominent lawmaker.

The PPP’s emphasis on cautioning against reading too much into the conversations where “master” and other terms with shamanist associations — with both Kim Eun-hee and Yoon Hee-seok stressing that this was a “private conversation” — appeared to reflect concerns that the recordings of Kim Keon-hee could reawaken memories of the government influence scandal.

In a telephone interview, another PPP official said, “Choi Soon-sil interfered after [Park] became President. It’s awkward to draw connections between her and Kim, who has not even been shown to have had any influence in the election campaign process.”

“The Democratic Party is going overboard with that framing because of their experience bringing down [Park and Choi] with their candlelight demonstrations,” the official said.

But with Kim outside the “control” of the election committee — and no precise information shared on her activities within Yoon’s camp — the PPP has been unable to come up with a concrete response. In a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh, one election committee official said, “We’re just watching and waiting for now, since we have no idea what’s going to come up in future follow-up reports.”

Another election committee member said, “It looks as though the key stuff has already been made public. There doesn’t seem to be much chance of the ‘outside influence’ issue having a big impact.”

Meanwhile, the PPP has been fighting back by framing the recording of Kim’s conversations as “political maneuvering.”

Speaking at a meeting of the PPP election headquarters on Monday morning, head of the headquarters, Kwon Young-se, said, “The fact that this illegal recording took place systematically and exhaustively over a period of some six months was beyond a violation of journalistic ethics.”

“This is truly vicious political maneuvering,” he added.

Taking aim at MBC for broadcasting excerpts from the recordings, Kwon said the network had “spearheaded the political operation by airing the illegal recordings on the eve of the election, without offering a proper right of reply.”

Jang Ye-chan, who heads the party’s youth committee, said, “If MBC is a fair broadcaster, in the interest of fairness they should also air recordings of the verbal abuse by members of Lee Jae-myung’s family, the controversial file of [Lee’s wife] Kim Hye-gyeong threatening her nephew, or the recording of evidence of the late [lawyer] Lee Byeong-cheol, who died not long ago, paying legal fees [on Lee Jae-myung’s behalf].”

By Oh Yeon Seo, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

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

Related stories

Most viewed articles