Resolving an internal conflict that delayed the launch of his election committee for about a month, Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, vowed to unite efforts to win in the March presidential election on Sunday.
In a Facebook post, Yoon of the People Power Party apologized for discord with party leader Lee Jun-seok after a dramatic reconciliation Friday. He also brought in Kim Chong-in, a veteran campaigner to lead his election committee.
“I will show a unified power of our campaign team with our new election committee chief Kim Chong-in and co-standing committee leaders Kim Byong-joon and Lee Jun-seok, in the inauguration ceremony for our election committee,” Yoon said via Facebook.
The inauguration ceremony for the party’s election committee will be held Monday, over a month after the presidential candidate was chosen on Nov. 5.
“In the process of forming our election committee, we struggled and caused anxiety and worries we did not intend for party members and people,” Yoon said.
“For the change of the government I can endure bigger difficulties. When I have to be bold to push on an agenda, I will do that, but when I have to wait, I will wait. That is my leadership.”
Yoon and party leader Lee had been at odds on recruitment of the election committee, and the conflict was visualized when the party chief cut off contact with the press and party officials to go on an unannounced road trip to southern portions of the country Tuesday.
Lee, who is the standing chairman of Yoon’s election committee, had also indirectly expressed complaints against Yoon for sidelining him from electioneering activities, saying he had not been notified nor asked for his opinion on election affairs.
On Friday night, Yoon and Lee met in Ulsan to shake hands and settle their differences. Following the reconciliation, veteran campaigner Kim Chong-in also called in to join Yoon’s election committee as the top commander.
Kim, 81, is a seasoned politician often referred to as a “kingmaker” for his contributions in getting candidates in either side of the aisle elected president. In his decadeslong political career, he backed the campaigns of Moon Jae-in, the incumbent president, and Park Geun-hye, Moon’s conservative predecessor.
On Saturday, Yoon said he was “lucky” to run in the presidential race with a party leader who is in his 30s, and said he would “give carte blanche” to Lee -- a remark intended to calm rumors that he was leaving out the young chief, 36, in his electioneering affairs.
On the same day, Yoon went canvassing with Lee in Busan, wearing matching red hoodies emblazoned with “Ask if you want to take pictures with me.” Lee had asked him to wear it with him, Yoon said.
On Yoon’s recruitment of Kim Chong-in and his reconciliation with Lee, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea denounced Yoon as “dependent.”
“Yoon Suk-yeol cannot do anything alone. Don’t hide. Stand up and confidently come up to discuss (state affairs) in public,” Rep. Jo Seoung-lae of the ruling Democratic Party said in a statement Sunday. Jo is a senior spokesman of the election committee for the ruling party’s presidential candidate, Lee Jae-myung.
“I do not know how much ‘carte blanche’ he has, but it is no different than declaring that Yoon himself will not do anything,” Rep. Jo said, referring to how Yoon had told both Lee Jun-seok and Kim Chong-in he would give them “carte blanche” in dealing with his own election campaign.
During his canvassing tour in North Jeolla Province on Sunday, Lee Jae-myung said he expected Kim Chong-in to participate in Yoon’s election team, and also called for Yoon to agree to a public debate between the major candidates.
“(A presidential election) is to choose a person who can represent the people of a country. We have to provide data for the people to judge who will be capable of handling state affairs,” the ruling party’s candidate said.
“I am not sure how prepared Yoon is, but (a public debate) is the minimum a candidate can do for the people.”
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com