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[Election 2022] Yoon disbands conflict-riddled campaign team

Main opposition presidential candidate cuts ties with Kim Chong-in, vows to start over

Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, announces disbandment of his election committee and to launch a new one, at the party headquarter in Yeouido, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, announces disbandment of his election committee and to launch a new one, at the party headquarter in Yeouido, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, on Wednesday disbanded his election campaign committee, following weeks of internal dispute.

In a press conference, the nominee from the People Power Party said he is launching a new campaign team that is more compact for efficiency, and apologized again for conflicts and scandals raised in the party and surrounding his family.

“The election committee is disbanded from today. Instead of giving posts to lawmakers, I will form a new campaign headquarters that is strictly focused on practicality,” Yoon said in the press conference held at the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul.

In disbanding the original election committee, headed by veteran campaigner Kim Chong-in, Yoon pointed out that numerous leadership posts -- the chief, subcommittee chiefs and standing chairpersons -- and internal subcommittees have slowed down the decision-making process.

Yoon’s decision, however, is deemed to reflect his desire to eliminate figures he has been at odds with since he was appointed as the flagbearer of the PPP for the March presidential election.

Two days before Wednesday’s announcement, the discord between Yoon and Kim came to light when Kim, the election committee’s top chief, made a surprise announcement of an overhaul of the committee without informing the candidate in advance.

According to Yoon, the new campaign headquarters will have one control tower, and all the subcommittees will be integrated and operate as different “teams.”

For the new election team, Yoon appointed Rep. Kwon Yong-se, a four-term lawmaker for the PPP, as leader. Kwon is known to be friends with Yoon from college.

While Yoon said he would release other appointments on the following day, Lim Tae-hee, a former lawmaker and a close aide to Kim Chong-in, will reportedly be in charge of the election pledges.

Yoon also emphasized that he would include more personnel in their 20s and 30s on the new campaign team, citing that a younger demographic is the source of “brilliant” ideas.

When asked about his relationship with Kim Chong-in after the disbandment, Yoon said he is “grateful for Kim’s support.”

“I met Kim two days ago. I also called him to express my gratitude, and asked him to continue giving advice,” Yoon said. 

Kim Chong-in (center), a veteran campaigner who served as the top chief of the main opposition People Power Party election committee, leaves his office in Gwanghwamun, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Kim Chong-in (center), a veteran campaigner who served as the top chief of the main opposition People Power Party election committee, leaves his office in Gwanghwamun, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Kim, however, expressed discontent with Yoon’s announcement Wednesday, raising doubts about his recruitment of a new campaign team.

Kim, who served as the top chief of the election committee, announced he had quit early Wednesday, before Yoon proposed the disbandment.

“I was the first one to suggest that it is important to build an election committee that is compact and efficient. But he has created an aircraft carrier, so it lacked mobility,” Kim said.

“That was also the reason why I had suggested a complete reform of the committee. ... Because Yoon is new to politics, he would have thought it is better to have as many people as possible, and that has led to this situation now.”

Kim added, “The people close to Yoon are people who I am very uncomfortable with. I cannot run a campaign committee with them.”

At the press conference, Yoon also revealed his thoughts on PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok, who he has been at odds with.

“Lee and I have both been elected by the people and party members to work for regime change. So we have received the same order from the people,” Yoon said.

“I believe Lee will play his role well as the chairman of the party, for the presidential election.”

On growing calls inside the party for Lee to step down, Yoon said it is beyond his authority to comment. He believes the calls are asking for Lee‘s active participation in the electioneering.

The party chairman faces increased criticism, as he has been seen showing his differences from the presidential candidate.

Over the launch of Yoon’s new campaign team, Lee said making the entity more compact is in line with what he had suggested early on.

Lee also welcomed Yoon’s pledge to involve more of those in their 20s and 30s in the election campaign. If the candidate can present fast and transformative proposals for the younger demographic, he would be able to gain back support from the voters, he said.

As for the appointment of Rep. Kwon Young-se as the head of the new campaign team, Lee explained he has friendly ties with Kwon, and that he would play his role well to lead the team. Further evaluation of Kwon would depend on how he handles with tasks ahead, Lee added.

Yoon attended a New Year’s event at the Korea Federation of SMEs to greet entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized companies, resuming public activities after he canceled all events following Kim’s unexpected reform announcement Monday.

In a Facebook post later in the day, Yoon also said he will participate in debates with other candidates in the presidential race, to “show his capability as a nominee” and to explain his polices and visions for the country. 

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