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‘Kingmaker’ Kim Chong-in rejects Yoon’s election committee recruitment

Former People Power Party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in leaves his office in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Former People Power Party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in leaves his office in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Yoon Seok-youl, the presidential candidate for the main opposition People Power Party, is struggling to finalize his election committee, with Kim Chong-in hinting at a possible rift within the ranks.

Kim, a veteran election campaigner who was asked to lead Yoon’s election committee, said on Tuesday he “does not want to talk about politics anymore” and that he would “return to his daily life,” hinting that he will not play a role in supporting Yoon in March’s presidential election.

Yoon has been reaching out to recruit Kim -- a seasoned politician often referred to as “kingmaker” -- to his team, and appears to be finalizing the leadership of his election committee. On Sunday, Yoon announced that Kim, who once served as the People Power Party’s interim leader, would be heading the election committee, while current and former party chiefs Lee Jun-seok and Kim Byong-joon would be co-standing chairmen for the election campaign committee.

Yoon also appointed Kim Han-gil, a former chief of the liberal Democratic Party, to lead a separate committee dubbed the New Era Preparatory Committee.

After Yoon’s announcement, however, Kim Chong-in reportedly asked to hold off on his appointment. The change in stance appears to have come as Yoon recruited the two former party leaders, Kim Byong-joon and Kim Han-gil, whom Kim did not approve of.

“It is not like I am new to this (elections) and I have always said I don’t do what I am not sure about,” Kim said Tuesday, speaking to reporters in front of his office in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

The 81-year-old politician has served as the leader of both the ruling and main opposition parties, with his political career spanning nearly 60 years.

On Tuesday, Yoon also expressed discontent with Kim. On his way to an event, Yoon told reporters not to ask about him.

Amid the growing rift between Kim and Yoon, three-term lawmaker Chang Je-won of the People Power Party said he would “leave Yoon’s side” on Tuesday, as his affiliation with Yoon appears to be causing problems for the presidential candidate.

Chang had been considered as a prominent candidate for the chief secretary position under Yoon. But Kim reportedly did not approve of Chang.

Kim, however, said his decision not to join Yoon’s campaign committee is not related to Chang, later Tuesday.

Chang had been practically leading Yoon’s election camp, working as the director in charge of the camp’s operations. But he quit after his son, Chang Yong-joon, better known by his rap name NO:EL, was referred to the prosecution on charges of driving without a license and for headbutting a police officer in October.

By Jo He-rim (