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[Newsmaker] Ruling party's attempt to link Yoon with shamanism backfires

Photos of a ritual shows Yoon's name, as well as those of ruling bloc figures

This photo, provided by the presidential election campaign committee of the main opposition People Power Party, shows a controversial ritual held in 2018 that was known to be run by a shaman accused of being unofficially involved with the campaign team of Yoon Suk-yeol in an advisory role. (People Power Party)
This photo, provided by the presidential election campaign committee of the main opposition People Power Party, shows a controversial ritual held in 2018 that was known to be run by a shaman accused of being unofficially involved with the campaign team of Yoon Suk-yeol in an advisory role. (People Power Party)
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea's attempt to again embroil People Power Party’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol with shamanism allegations backfired, after photos hinted key figures within their own faction could be involved as well.

Rep. Kim Eui-kyeom of the Democratic Party raised an allegation in a press conference Tuesday that Yoon and his wife were found linked to a dubious religious ritual in 2018 run by a shaman accused of being unofficially involved with Yoon’s campaign team in an advisory role.

The legislator unveiled photographs of the ritual held in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, where tags with the names of Yoon, his wife and some People Power Party figures were found hanging at the site.

Yoon's tag also had the title of chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, and his wife's, the title of CEO at Covana Contents.

The ritual consisted of skinning a cow and hanging the skin for display alongside a stack of 10 dead pigs on a stage for a ceremony, Kim claimed, adding the ritual was run by the shaman who was earlier accused of having close ties with Yoon and the People Power Party’s election campaign committee.

Kim said the ritual was not in observance of Buddhist traditions, claiming the ceremony had ties to marginalized religious groups, and that the couple would have had to pay a significant amount to have their names up for the ritual, as there weren’t that many tags on display at the site.

In response, the People Power Party immediately denied the allegations and claimed that names and titles of some top figures within the Democratic Party can also be found from photographs and videos of the scene.

The photographs the main opposition party showed to the press had tags flying with the title of "president" printed on it and another with the name and the title of Lee Si-jong, governor of North Chungcheong Province, who is a member of the Democratic Party.

The president then is the incumbent Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party who rose to the chief administrative post in 2017.

Rep. Lee Yang-soo, a senior spokesperson for the People Power Party’s presidential election campaign committee, questioned whether Kim wants to acknowledge that even key figures of his own camp were involved in the controversial ritual.

The main opposition party also claimed that the ritual was run by a figure surnamed Seo who has close ties with the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee Lee Jae-myung from his time in service as governor of Gyeonggi Province, citing related press reports of the time.

Seo was involved in Lee's election campaign team during his successful run for the gubernatorial post in June 2018 and was one of the seven religious group leaders to announce support for Lee in his bid for presidency in September.

"Rep. Kim is continuously and maliciously making false accusations against candidate Yoon," Rep. Lee said in a statement to the press. "We ask this to be no longer repeated, and we will file a complaint against him."

Shamanism and mysticism in the realm of politics and administration are sensitive topics in South Korea, especially after former President Park Geun-hye faced allegations of being involved in cult rituals and being mysteriously influenced by her close friend, Choi Seo-won, who was then known as Choi Soon-sil.

Choi's father, a self-proclaimed pastor and founder of an obscure sect called the Church of Eternal Life, was called a "Korean Rasputin," serving as a mentor and counselor for Park and winning her trust when Park’s mother, Yuk Young-soo, was assassinated in 1974.

Allegations raised against Yoon in regard to shamanism has sparked worries that the candidate may be influenced by shadowy figures, as was the case with the former president until she was impeached.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Democratic Party heavily denounced the People Power Party and its presidential candidate for its alleged links to shamanism and mysticism.

"It is shocking to find the name of Yoon Suk-yeol at the disparaging site of animal abuse, but it is even more appalling to find him being the presidential nominee of the main opposition party," said Rep. Kang Byung-won, a senior spokesperson for the election campaign committee of the Democratic Party, in a statement.

"Candidate Yoon has insisted he has no close ties with the shaman, saying he was only introduced to him once. He has to answer why the names of him and his wife were at the ritual if he really is not acquainted with the shaman."

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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