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[Newsmaker] PPP leader says Lee Jae-myung is easier than Lee Nak-yon

The leader of the main opposition party said Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung was easier than former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon as a presidential candidate to compete against in next year’s election.

Asked during a radio interview Monday evening which of the two ruling party presidential contenders he thought was “more comfortable to deal with,” People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok chose the governor.

“If I say something like this, the Lee Jae-myung camp issues statements,” Lee Jun-seok said on a CBS radio show, asking them to not take it too seriously.

In response to a question as to whether he still highly appreciated Rep. Park Yong-jin above other ruling Democratic Party of Korea presidential contenders, Lee said, “If (Park) becomes the candidate, he would be powerful. It’s like how they always name (former) legislator Yoo Seong-min (as a powerful opposition candidate).”

Two-term lawmaker Rep. Park is currently running fifth among Democratic Party contestants after Gov. Lee, ex-Prime Minister Lee, ex-Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and ex-Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun in presidential preference polls.

Yoo, who served four terms as a legislator, ranks fourth among opposition candidates, following former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, ex-chief state auditor Choe Jae-hyeong and Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the People Power Party.

When Chin Jung-kwon, political commentator and regular panel member of the show, said it looks like Yoon was “giving up centrists,” Lee said the situation would get better with help from political experts, suggesting things will improve if Yoon officially joins the People Power Party.

Lee said last week in another radio interview that Yoon’s falling ratings were “risky.”

Yoon received more than 2.56 billion won ($2.23 million) in political donations from over 21,000 supporters on Monday, more than twice that of Lee Jae-myung who collected 1 billion won in a day.

Regarding the recent top court ruling that convicted former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo for colluding with a political blogger to manipulate online public opinion to help President Moon Jae-in win the 2017 election, Lee said he thinks Moon should apologize for what happened in the election camp. But he fell short of Yoon, who said the special prosecutor who investigated the case should resume the probe and hold Moon responsible.

“That can be logically contradictory,” Lee said, noting that special prosecutor Huh Ik-beom who led the probe into the online opinion manipulation case in 2018 would have already tried to find out whether Moon was involved, but was unable, hence the indictment of Kim.

“(Yoon’s demand) is like calling for a special prosecutor investigation into a special prosecutor’s investigation. Special prosecutor Huh actually made major progress, getting to the bottom of a case that can severely harm the administration in its beginning and getting (Kim) convicted.”

Lee said he interpreted Yoon’s demand as a “political declaration.”

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo called on Yoon to keep it together, saying Yoon does not deserve to talk about the political blogger case, as he had shouldered blame for overlooking it as then chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Yoon met with Lee over chicken and beer on Sunday, brewing speculation that he will join the People Power Party next month to run for its presidential candidacy.

With ongoing speculation that President Moon may pardon jailed former President Park Geun-hye on Aug. 15, some political observers say Yoon, who led the investigation that resulted in Park’s conviction, should join the People Power Party before that happens.

Lee warned during the People Power Party’s supreme council meeting on Monday that whether it be the ruling or opposition party, whoever talks about Park’s impeachment will lose the election next year.

By Kim So-hyun (