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Ex-Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl announces presidential bid

Race for March election heats up with high-profile figures announcing entries

Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl announces his bid to compete in the presidential race next year during a press conference held in southern Seoul on Tuesday. (Joint Press Corps/Yonhap)
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl announces his bid to compete in the presidential race next year during a press conference held in southern Seoul on Tuesday. (Joint Press Corps/Yonhap)
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl on Tuesday announced his bid to compete in the presidential race next year, officially launching a political career 118 days after stepping down from the top prosecutorial post.

During a press conference in southern Seoul on Tuesday, Yoon vowed to rebuild justice and the rule of law, saying the Moon Jae-in administration has destroyed South Korea’s foundations.

“It is hard to articulate every misdeed that this administration has committed,” Yoon said.

“This cartel of small interest groups made by the incumbent administration and its related people has privatized power and is establishing a food chain that is void of a sense of responsibility and morality.”

Yoon said he is running for president to bring back justice, uphold democracy and ensure that all the rights of the people are respected. Overturning the “corrupt and incompetent” ruling bloc is essential to protect the people and the future of the nation, he said.

“I have no experience in politics but have spent 26 years as a public official with a determination to work only for the people,” Yoon said.

“I dare to tell the people that I am ready to devote everything and dedicate myself for the people and the future of this nation. I promise to do this in the right way, jointly with everyone who desires to overturn the ruling force.”

The former chief prosecutor did not elaborate greatly on how he would run the country as president, but vowed to focus on innovating existing socioeconomic policies. He vowed to ensure fairness and protect democracy to promote creativity and prepare for a new era of technological advances.

“This political force that puts the people under suffering and fails to meet their basic needs is unable to and has no plans to prepare and respond to the new era of technological innovation,” Yoon said, criticizing the ruling bloc and incumbent administration.

“The future of South Korea is obvious if their rule is extended. We the people already know, and we will no longer be fooled by their deception and false agitation.”

Yoon has been touted as the top presidential contender for the opposition bloc since last year, with much support coming from those critical of President Moon Jae-in and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.

He resigned from the top prosecutorial post in March after clashing with the Moon administration’s plan to reform the prosecution. Yoon criticized the plan during a press conference, announcing his resignation for destroying the nation’s constitutional values.

The ex-top prosecutor’s campaign could face road blocks due to a dossier allegedly revealing his family’s suspected illegalities. The “Yoon Seok-youl X-file” has been circulating in political circles, though exact details of the document remain largely unknown at this point.

During the press conference, Yoon said he had not seen the document yet, adding that the people will be able to fairly judge when the “groundless” gossip coming “from an unknown source is made known to the public.”

Yet Yoon has been preparing in recent weeks to start his presidential campaign, hiring a new spokesperson and opening a campaign office in Jongno-gu, central Seoul.

He has so far recruited Lee Seok-joon, former head of government policy coordination, to advise him on economic policies. A think tank named “Fairness and Common Sense” launched last month could also help Yoon draft policy initiatives as a presidential candidate.

Yoon also opened his own Facebook page Tuesday to appeal to voters through social media, but deleted it soon after it was opened to relaunch the page after reorganization.

He is widely expected to join the main opposition People Power Party for the presidential election, which will be held in March 2022.

Yoon said during the press conference Tuesday that he agrees with the philosophy of the People Power Party, though he has not decided which political party to join. He declined to comment on whether he would join the primaries for the main opposition party.

The People Power Party has also been considering recruiting Choe Jae-hyeong, former chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, who resigned from his post Monday, as another high-profile figure who has been at odds with the ruling party and the Moon administration.

Like Yoon’s, Choe’s resignation was seen as a step toward joining the presidential election race under the opposition bloc. He has been in conflict with the Moon administration in regards to the BAI’s probe of a controversial early closure of Korea’s second-oldest nuclear power plant.

The presidential race is going to remain a hot-button topic throughout the week, as Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, one of the most favored presidential hopefuls in public polls, is slated to announce his bid on the ticket of the ruling party on Thursday.

Yoon and Lee have been touted as the two most likely presidential candidates in public polls, and much public interest has centered on their whereabouts and movements.

According to the latest Realmeter survey, Yoon had the support of 32.3 percent of eligible voters across the country, followed by Lee with 22.8 percent.

The main opposition People Power Party is planning to decide on its candidate for the presidential post in early November, while the ruling Democratic Party plans to hold its primaries in early September.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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