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[Newsmaker] Opposition campaign chief tightens grip to end internal conflict

Kim Chong-in, the top chief of the election committee of the main opposition People Power Party attends a committee meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Kim Chong-in, the top chief of the election committee of the main opposition People Power Party attends a committee meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
People Power Party election committee chief Kim Chong-in stepped in Tuesday to calm the conflict between the party’s presidential candidate and its chairman.

Discord in the conservative main opposition party has continued since it chose Yoon Suk-yeol, a former prosecutor general, as its flagbearer in November.

Acknowledging internal disputes made public by remarks of the party members, Kim said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper that he will step up to “control the various messages” that the party delivers to the public.

On a series of misstatements on state and social affairs by the presidential candidate, Kim also vowed to gain control over the people around Yoon, who may affect his words.

“Yoon has just entered politics after serving in the prosecution for 26 years. So he is only so much aware of the political impact of his words. The campaign team should help him in delivering messages with affective political meanings.”

As to Lee Jun-seok, the party chief who has been at odds with the presidential candidate, Kim also said Lee should be more “accommodating” as a leader.

“Personal advice (to the presidential candidate) is OK. But making it public is not wise. People will find it hard to accept that a party leader and the party’s presidential candidate keep on saying different things,” Kim said.

Kim also said Lee’s political life depends on the upcoming presidential election, and the result affects the party’s standing ahead of the regional and general elections.

“Lee would be rational to make the right judgment,” Kim added.

On Tuesday, Yoon appeared to seek closure in the dispute with Lee, calling him a party leader with “great capability.”

“Even though Lee is in his 30s, he has become the party chief via an election, and he has been in the politics arena for over a decade now,” Yoon said in a policy discussion with local broadcasters.

“I believe Lee would know his role as a party chairman (in the presidential election).”

Lee also said he is open to “rejoining” the party’s election committee if Yoon requests him to, in an interview Tuesday.

Lee stepped down from his post as the joint standing chairman of the People Power Party election committee on Dec. 21, following an argument with the campaign committee’s communications chief, Rep. Cho Su-jin, who then also resigned.

In the latest spat, Yoon had said no one in the party should act like a “critic from a third party,” a remark which appears to target the party chairman, who has been critical of the election campaign.

“The election is just around the corner, and it is an emergency situation and a critical period. No one should become a critic from a third party,” Yoon said in an election committee meeting Monday.

“(We) should embrace the attitude to resolve problems on our own, and to persuade the people and draw support from them.”

On the same day, Lee immediately hit back in a Facebook post, saying, “It would give a wrong impression to the people if Yoon were to call the proposals made by the party chief mere criticisms.”

“I believe being able to voice their opinion for improvement of the group they are affiliated in is democracy,” Lee said, adding that a proposal carries a solution, and is “more than” just a critical evaluation.

While Kim Chong-in, the seasoned politician in top command of the party’s campaign team, said he would take a stronger lead, further dispute may be inevitable, as several officials of Yoon’s election committee have been referred to the party’s disciplinary committee for “disobeying” Lee.

Lee referred Kim Yong-nam, the election committee’s senior communications officer, to the disciplinary committee Friday, after Kim accused Lee of creating new posts for his close aides and paying them millions of won.

Rep. Cho, who had been the election committee’s communications chief, was also referred to the disciplinary committee for openly rejecting Lee’s direction and saying she only listens to the presidential candidate’s orders.

The disciplinary committee meeting to review the cases is to be held Thursday morning.

Another veteran lawmaker, Hong Joon-pyo, who was the runner-up in the party primary and is now supporting its regional election committee in Daegu, said it was important to “embrace” the party chief to win in the election.

“Even if (you) can’t approve of Lee, (you) should embrace him. Oppressing him will only lead to losing in the election,” Hong said in a post on Facebook on Tuesday.

In a survey by local pollster Realmeter on Tuesday, Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, posted support of 41.1 percent, surpassing Yoon, who followed with 40.1 percent.

The survey commissioned by Energy Economic News was conducted over the weekend with 1,000 respondents. 

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

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald Youtube