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[Election 2022] Feuding, gaffes, falling support put opposition campaign in crisis

Main opposition party campaign leaders resign in hope for turnaround

Kim Chong-in (center), the election committee chief at the main oppositionPeople Power Party, attends a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Kim Chong-in (center), the election committee chief at the main oppositionPeople Power Party, attends a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

Leaving just 66 days before the presidential election, the entire leadership of the main opposition People Power Party’s campaign committee resigned Monday, amid unending internal strife, constant gaffes and falling support.

After the campaign chief Kim Chong-in announced earlier in the day that he would carry out a complete reform of the election committee, the party said all politicians holding a leader position at the election camp would resign from their posts, including all of the team’s standing chairmen and division leaders.

Kim was also to resign according to the party announcement, but later confirmed that he will remain in his position. The initial announcement was wrongly delivered due to miscommunication, the party’s spokesman Lee Yang-soo said.

The surprise announcement comes as the party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol is witnessing a plunge in support ratings. Since the appointment of its flagbearer Yoon in November, the main opposition’s electioneering efforts have been dragged down by the unending conflict between the nominee and the party chairman.

Adding that to the series of scandals surrounding the candidate’s family, Yoon gave way to his main rival Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, in all of the latest polls on Monday.

The opposition party’s floor leader Rep. Kim Ki-hyun and chief policymaker Rep. Kim Do-eup also resigned from their party leadership posts saying they would take responsibility for the interim controversies.

Early Monday morning, Yoon attended one event before canceling all scheduled activities from then on.

Yoon’s campaign committee chief Kim had said he would carry out a complete overhaul of the PPP election committee “to show the people that we are always doing our best in the (presidential) race” in announcing the reform in the morning.

“I believe the PPP election committee should utilize all of its capabilities to have Yoon Suk-yeol elected (president).”

In a party meeting later in the afternoon, Kim also revealed how he has told the candidate that he would play the role as a “secretary” for him, and asked Yoon to “act” according to the campaign team’s order.

“As I have experienced several presidential elections in the past, I guarantee that a party wins when the nominee acts well to follow the election committee’s orders,” Kim said.

Before the election committee’s leadership resignation, Yoon posted an apology on social media, admitting that he had failed to address voters in their 20s and 30s, acknowledging the sharp fall in support rating among that age group in a recent poll.

In the Facebook post, Yoon said, “When I announced my candidacy, I pledged to make a fair society for the youth, and to listen to them well. ... I honestly admit, I have failed to consider the thoughts of those in their 20s and 30s carefully.”

Yoon also said he made a “misjudgment” in recruiting 31-year-old feminist politician Shin Ji-ye into his campaign team, after which he was criticized from both inside and outside the party.

“Shin Ji-ye quit (the campaign) today. It is my fault (to recruit her) to create unnecessary conflicts. Gender issues are where perspectives differ greatly by generations, and I understand that I made a lopsided judgment of the older generation to disappoint the younger generation,” Yoon said.

“A president should not fan social conflicts but should adjust and treat them. ... From now on, I will admit to what I do not know (as a person from the older generation) and start over to sympathize with the youth.”

Shin, who was named senior deputy chair of the Saesidae Preparatory Committee working directly under Yoon, quit the campaign team Monday.

A controversial figure in the conservative bloc, not only for her liberal-leaning political inclinations, but also as a feminist, Shin said she faced a great barrier in delivering her message at the conservative party and denounced Lee for blaming her for the drop in support.

The party chairman Lee refrained from elaborating on his thoughts on the reform scheme to “not make things more complicated.”

“I believe the nominee will spend time deliberating on many things today, and so will I.”

Lee did, however, say that the drop in the candidate’s support is part of a structural problem of the election committee.

“It is possible to recover (the support) if the candidate receives proper assistance from the election committee, because the candidate himself is capable,” Lee added.

In a survey conducted by local pollster Realmeter on Monday, Yoon witnessed his support drop 1.2 percentage points from the week before to 39.2 percent, trailing Lee Jae-myung, who posted 40.9 percent, up 1.2 percentage points.

The ratings showed a significant change from the week before among respondents in their 20s. According to the survey, Lee saw support grow among those in their 20s to 33.6 percent, increasing by 3.3 percentage points from the week before. Yoon’s approval rating, on the other hand, plunged by 6.6 percentage points.

Ahn Cheol-soo from the minor opposition People’s Party came third with 6.6 percent, and Sim Sang-jung from the progressive Justice Party stood at 3 percent.

The poll, commissioned by OhmyNews, was conducted from Dec. 26 through Friday among 3,037 adults.

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

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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