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[Election 2022] Another dramatic reconciliation, but hurdles remain for main opposition

Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party gets off a subway train at the National Assembly Station in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party gets off a subway train at the National Assembly Station in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
After another dramatic reconciliation with People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok, Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, took the subway to work Friday, and took another step to recovering ties with the party leader.

The party chairman welcomed Yoon’s move, saying it signals “the start” for a big change. Lee had said he recommended a number of electioneering activities that would soften the image of Yoon, who was formerly prosecutor general.

Yoon took the subway from Pungmu Station in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, to arrive at the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, and greeted people on the way.

After getting off a subway packed full with commuters, the presidential candidate announced an election pledge to enhance transportation lines in the capital. He pledged to build additional subway lines to make central areas in Seoul each reachable within 30 minutes from each other.

“For Seoul residents, it is not such a special thing to commute to work by subway as it is part of daily life. But (Yoon’s action) shows how he has changed his electioneering strategy, and this signals the start of a big change,” the chairman said in a Facebook post.

“As the candidate has decided to keep a humble attitude, I also expect all party members to carry out the campaigning with humble and genuine attitudes.”

At a general meeting Thursday where opposition party lawmakers demanded Lee’s resignation, Yoon made a surprise appearance to offer his hand for reconciliation to Lee.

The candidate also urged the party members to join forces for victory in the rapidly approaching presidential election, to settle the resignation resolution against Lee, as some lawmakers have put blame on the chairman for the candidate’s plunging support rating.

“You and the people chose me and party leader Lee Jun-seok. Let’s all work together to win in the March election,” Yoon said.

“Everything at fault is on me. ... Everyone has weaknesses. But who are we, and what is the role of a party? Let‘s just move on for the greater cause.”

As the two are working to display an enhanced relationship, one expert said Yoon will now have to prove he is genuine through election pledges and activities for a clear recovery of support.

“The bottom line is, it (the reconciliation) scores 30 points out of 100 in my opinion,” Eom Gyeong-yeong, director of the Zeitgeist Institute, told The Korea Herald.

Eom said there are two reasons for Yoon’s falling support. One is how the dispute with the party’s youngest leader manifested his difficulties of getting along with the younger generations. Lee is 36.

The second reason is Yoon’s lack of capabilities and insights in politics and society, and the scandals surrounding his family, according to Eom.

“So it is crucial for Yoon to prove that the performance he put up (the reconciliation with Lee) is not just a mere show, and also show his genuineness via election pledges and electioneerings,” Eom said.

Concerns also remain as the past disputes highlighted the differences between the party’s two biggest figures, especially in the selection of figures to appoint for posts.

Some critical events are left for the party leadership to discuss, including the by-election slated for the same day as the presidential election in March, and the local election in June.

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