People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok said on Thursday he is not “boycotting” his duties as the chairman as he was never actually given any, expressing his discontent with the party’s presidential candidate.
Making his way to Jeju Island on the third day of his unannounced road trip to the southern portion of the country, Lee denied suspicions that he has gone into hiding in protest, contending he is traveling to “check” on how the party is doing.
Lee canceled all official activities Tuesday without prior explanation, and had cut contact with the press and most party officials, amid swirling rumors the party’s presidential nominee had been sidelining Lee on several important occasions. Lee and the party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol were also seen in discord over forming the party’s election committee.
“Some said I have refused to do my duties, but I have not been given a duty to handle,” Lee told reporters after a luncheon with the families of victims of the Jeju April 3 incident, a bloody suppression of a civilian uprising that occurred from April 1948 to 1949 on the southern island.
“After the party’s secretary-general was replaced upon the demand of the presidential candidate, I do not think I have been notified of any party affairs other than one case,” Lee said.
“Yoon has not asked for my opinion on any party affairs, so I did not even recognize myself as not doing my work.”
Lee added that he was carrying out the trip as planned. He visited Busan then Suncheon and Yeosu in South Jeolla Province before moving on to Jeju Island.
Chun Ha-ram, a lawyer who serves as the conservative party’s regional chief in the Suncheon area, met Lee on Wednesday and said the party chief is unlikely to go back to Seoul anytime soon unless “a sense of crisis” in the party’s electioneering is resolved.
“Lee feels a great sense of crisis that the party may not win in the upcoming presidential election if things don’t change,” Chun said in a radio interview Thursday.
Lee also told Chun that the party is headed in the wrong direction.
“Lee said the election camp is taking a ‘what is good is good’ stance in campaigning, like Ahn Cheol-soo’s, without a proper targeting strategy. But we can’t have our cake and eat it too,” Chun said. Ahn is the presidential nominee of the minor opposition People’s Party.
Lee also expressed concerns that “a swarm of flies and hyenas are covering the eyes and ears of Yoon,” according to Chun. “He was also very unhappy when the recruitment of Kim Chong-in failed.”
With the strife between the party chief and presidential candidate showing no signs of an impending resolution, party members are concerned their dragged-out dispute could damage their electioneering and tarnish the party’s image.
“If the conflict between Yoon and Lee continues, voters will turn their backs on both the party and the presidential nominee,” a party official said.
Meanwhile, Yoon has said he wants Lee to recharge himself.
“I did not plan to pressure Lee to return. I want him to take time to recharge himself,” Yoon told reporters after a policy conference in Seoul on Thursday.
“Even though opinions may divide (to win the presidential election) we still have to go together. I will be dealing with all issues in that context.”
In a joint survey by four local pollsters Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research and Hankook Research, Yoon witnessed his support drop this week from the previous week, though remaining standing ahead of his main rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, now by just 1 percent.
Yoon posted 34 percent support in the poll with 1,015 respondents, down by 1 percent. Lee’s support edged up by 1 percent from the previous week to 33 percent, according to the survey.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org