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Main opposition party bogged down in power struggle

Discord between Yoon and Kim comes to the fore

The main opposition People Power Party put up a placard on Tuesday, reading, “(We) deeply apologize” in front of the National Assembly, as the internal strife at the party continues. (Yonhap)
The main opposition People Power Party put up a placard on Tuesday, reading, “(We) deeply apologize” in front of the National Assembly, as the internal strife at the party continues. (Yonhap)

The main opposition People Power Party appears to be swamped with a power struggle, as the discord between the presidential candidate and his election campaign chief on running the campaign has come to the fore.

As the election committee’s top chief, Kim Chong-in revealed to have excluded the party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol in announcing the surprise renewal of the election committee, and reversing his on what he had agreed with Yoon, the presidential candidate was reported to be "very upset," and decided to exclude Kim from the committee. 

On Tuesday, Yoon maintained silence on how he plans to restructure the election committee. His aide told reporters he would make an announcement the following day.

A day earlier, Kim announced that he would carry out a complete reform of the campaign team following a series of disputes between Yoon, his aides and the party’s Chairman Lee Jun-seok that were made public. The disputes have negatively affected Yoon’s support ratings as a presidential candidate in polls.

Kim also said the electon committee is likely to integrate all divisions to have one control tower led by the candidate. 

People Power Party's election committee chief Kim Chong-in enters the party's headquarter in Yeouido, Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
People Power Party's election committee chief Kim Chong-in enters the party's headquarter in Yeouido, Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

However, the unexpected news of reform escalated tensions, as Kim revealed that he had made this announcement without telling Yoon in advance. It highlighted the conflict between the campaign chief and the candidate.

Following Kim’s announcement Monday, Yoon canceled all scheduled activities from that day onwards.

On Monday evening there was also an incident where the party’s campaign team released an official statement to announce the resignation of all of its leaders, including top chief Kim Chong-in. But Kim later refuted the statement, saying he would remain the top chief.

While the party later said it was a miscommunication that led the statement to include Kim, pundits said it may have been an intentional move by Yoon, who wants to kick Kim out of the presidential campaign.

According to local media reports, Yoon and Kim had agreed that Kim and all other heads of divisions at the election committee would step down from their campaign posts, but Kim apparently reversed his decision without prior discussion with Yoon.

Kim Yong-nam, a senior communication officer at the People Power Party campaign and Yoon’s close aide, admitted that the confusion created Monday could be interpreted as a“coup d’etat.”

“The biggest reason which led all leaders to step down from the campaign team is because there are people who are trying to highlight their presence over the presidential candidate,” Kim said on the radio.

“The incident (on Monday) is also one of those cases.”

In addition to the incident, Kim Chong-in’s remark made during a party meeting Monday has been criticized as “undermining” the presidential candidate, after he revealed he had told Yoon to “act” according to what the election camp orders.

“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 in the party meeting.

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, a veteran lawmaker who was the runner-up in the party’s primary, denounced the remarks. It showed how Kim is “looking down on the presidential candidate,” he said.

The main opposition People Power Party's presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to reporters at the party's headquarter on Monday night. (Yonhap)
The main opposition People Power Party's presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to reporters at the party's headquarter on Monday night. (Yonhap)

On Monday night, Yoon, who has kept quiet except for a Facebook post, emerged to issue his latest apology.

“It is solely my fault to have created worries during the election campaign. For that, I am deeply sorry.

“I will carry out an overhaul and make changes to the campaign committee and turn over a new leaf to run in the presidential race.”

Yoon also said he will come up with a reform plan and solution soon.

As internal strife appears to continue, Yoon’s aides have also raised their voices against the party’s Chairman Lee Jun-seok, who has been at odds with the presidential candidate.

Former lawmaker Kim Kyung-jin, who is currently a senior communications head for the party’s election committee, said Lee should step down as chairman and support the candidate from backstage.

“About 7 to 8 out of 10 people I meet (in the party) say Lee should resign,” Kim said in a local radio broadcast Tuesday.

He also said it is an exaggeration to say the 36-year-old party chairman “perfectly” represents the opinions of voters in their 20s and 30s.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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