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Opposition camp reaches out to non-party figures for wider appeal

People Power Party invites non-conservatives to join with fresh recruitments

Yoon Suk-yeol (right), presidential nominee of the main opposition People Power Party, poses for a photo Sunday with former Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil in celebrating the opening of the Sasidae Preparatory Committee. (Joint Press Corps)
Yoon Suk-yeol (right), presidential nominee of the main opposition People Power Party, poses for a photo Sunday with former Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil in celebrating the opening of the Sasidae Preparatory Committee. (Joint Press Corps)
The main opposition People Power Party is looking beyond its own ranks as it builds a support team for Yoon Suk-yeol’s presidential campaign.

In most campaigns, parties have let political allegiances govern directions and appointments, but the main opposition bloc is emphasizing unity and inclusivity in its battle against the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.

"Our election campaign committee will be a pragmatic team only for the people, not just for the conservatives nor the liberals," Yoon said in a speech Sunday made to celebrate the opening of the Saesidae Preparatory Committee, a sub-committee under his presidential election campaign team.

The sub-committee, led by former Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil, was established to help prepare a support base for Yoon if he wins the presidency while providing a source of expertise across fields for the early days of his presidency.

Kim said the Saesidae Preparatory Committee would allow people to join regardless of their party membership, as people should be focused on overturning the incumbent power and that limiting participation by membership status will hinder that goal from being established.

The establishment emphasizes People Power Party's goal to draw votes from its non-supporters. It ultimately seeks to increase its base among politically neutral voters and later use the recently established sub-committees to merge forces with minor presidential candidates.

The Saesidae Preparatory Committee’s makeup could be helpful in helping Yoon's campaign team merge forces with Ahn Cheol-soo, presidential candidate and head of the minor opposition People's Party. Kim had served as co-chair of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a precursor to the ruling Democratic Party, with Ahn in 2014.

In line with the vision to recruit figures regardless of their party allegiance, the People Power Party also recruited former lawmaker Yun Hee-suk who gave up her lawmaker seat and relinquished her party membership in August over a controversy surrounding her father’s real estate investment.

Weeks earlier, the People Power Party invited then-unaffiliated Rep. Lee Yong-ho to join as co-chairman of the election campaign committee and officially join the party. He represents a constituency in North Jeolla Province, a traditional stronghold for the liberal faction.

The party had recruited veteran election campaigner Kim Chong-in to serve as the chief of Yoon's election campaign committee. Kim Chong-in served as head of the People Power Party and the Democratic Party at different times in the past, showing no particular party allegiance in his political career.

Yet the party’s recruitment plan also received criticism of that it included figures with unresolved allegations against them. Some appointments were retracted hours after they were announced.

The party on Monday announced it would recruit unaffiliated Reps. Park Duk-hyum and Jeon Bong-min, both of whom gave up their memberships of the party earlier due to allegations they had arranged for family members to be unfairly awarded contracts. But the party suspended their appointment hours later, as criticism mounted.

While the party has seen a mixed response in its attempt to recruit non-traditional political figures, the moves are expected to consolidate Yoon’s chances of winning the presidential race by better appealing to non-conservative voters.

According to a recent poll of 1,004 voters nationwide from the Korea Society Opinion Institute requested by TBS conducted from Friday to Saturday and released Monday, Yoon, with 42 percent support, was marginally ahead of his rival Lee at 40.6 percent.

In a separate survey by Realmeter commissioned by OhmyNews conducted from Monday to Friday, Yoon led Lee by 45.2 percent to 39.7 percent. While the gap between the two candidates has narrowed, Yoon has kept his lead in polls in the recent weeks.

For more information regarding the survey results, go to the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.

By Ko Jun-tae (