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Ruling party makes second attempt to leave Lee Jun-seok behind

Ex-chair responds by filing another injunction with court

Lee Jun-seok, People Power Party’s suspended former chair, speaks to his supporters at a plaza in Daegu on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Lee Jun-seok, People Power Party’s suspended former chair, speaks to his supporters at a plaza in Daegu on Sunday. (Yonhap)

Undeterred by a recent court loss, the ruling People Power Party has decided to move forward with yet another emergency leadership.

The party’s top leaders representing constituencies across the country on Thursday voted to bring in an emergency steering committee -- the second to be formed since previous chair Lee Jun-seok was given a six-month suspension in July -- with five-term lawmaker Rep. Chung Jin-suk as the head.

The potential names being floated to fill the new emergency steering committee led by Chung exclude the so-called “Yoon loyalists” or those considered to have close ties to President Yoon Suk-yeol.

One of them, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong said on this day he was stepping down as the floor leader so that the party can “start over and make a smooth transition” with newly picked leaders at the helm.

Kweon found himself at the center of People Power Party drama in July when his Telegram messages with Yoon were caught on camera by a reporter as he was checking his mobile phone in the middle of a National Assembly meeting. In the photograph of his mobile phone screen displaying the conversation, the president was seen referring to Lee as “party leader who is always picking fights.”

Lee has warned that he would be taking legal action against his own party for leaving him behind. Two months ago, he was suspended by an internal ethics committee for six months until January next year over allegations related to a 2015 sexual bribery scandal.

On Thursday, the ex-People Power Party chair once again filed an injunction with the court to stop the emergency steering committee from launching.

Last month, a Seoul district court sided with Lee and granted the injunction that was sought by him after determining that the situation facing the party did not warrant a formation of an emergency leadership.

The People Power Party’s constitution states that an emergency steering committee is launched in the absence of a chairperson, or when the existing governing body is unable to function as a result of loss of qualification or resignation of those holding leadership roles.

The party argued that Lee being barred from his post for as long as six months due to the ethics committee suspension has created a vacancy in leadership. The party leaders, including those who were on the supreme council, also offered to resign shortly after his suspension.

The court pointed out, however, that after Lee was suspended, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong immediately assumed office as the acting chair and that therefore no vacancy arose.

Speaking to reporters, Chung said that the party “still grappling to sort out the mess is regrettable,” adding that “as the ruling party, we shoulder an immense responsibility.”

He has hinted at possibly mending the rift with Lee, saying that he would “work to bring the party together.” He added that the term “Yoon loyalist” was misleading. “We all work for the success of this administration,” he said.

Others at the party, including Rep. Park Sung-joon, have also come out and said the party would “eventually reconcile with” Lee and that the president in particular would “embrace” the former leader.

In response, Lee said in a radio interview Monday that he found the idea of the president “embracing” him to be “insulting” and that it “almost drives (him) nuts.”

In the first press conference since he was estranged from the party on Aug. 13, Lee claimed that during the campaign Yoon had called him names in the presence of others and that the “Yoon loyalists” were trying to drive him out of the party.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)
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