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[Newsmaker] Lee Jae-myung says ‘shall I pull down my pants’ on TV

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung speaks at a parliamentary debate on property market law on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung speaks at a parliamentary debate on property market law on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Province governor and presidential front-runner Lee Jae-myung asked in a televised debate “shall I pull down my pants again?” when asked to explain his scandal with an actor.

During the debate among eight candidates for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s primary for next year’s presidential election Monday evening, former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun asked Lee to explain a previous scandal, saying the morality of a president is very important.

Lee explained that a voice recording of himself during a family dispute evoked criticism, and he had apologized for it.

When Chung said he was talking about another scandal, apparently referring to actor Kim Bu-seon’s claims that Lee continues to lie about an extramarital affair with her, Lee chuckled and retorted, “Shall I pull down my pants again?”

Kim filed a lawsuit against Lee for defamation after Lee denied her claims. She said in 2018 that Lee had a black mole in a conspicuous position on his body, and Lee had himself examined by doctors to prove he had no such mole.

Lee’s comment Monday reminded potential voters of singer Na Hoon-a, who pulled his pants halfway down on live television in 2008 to quell rumors that he had been castrated by Japanese gangsters.

When Chung, taken aback, turned his head saying “that’s different,” Lee again asked, “What do you want me to do?”

Chung replied, “You should explain so that the people can understand,” but the moderator reminded the two candidates they reached the time limit. Lee laughed and asked Chung, “What should I do?”

Lee’s camp said in a statement after the debate, “There were moments that made you frown. There was unreasonable denunciation on ways to finance basic incomes, and raking over one’s private life even though it has been cleared by the prosecution’s decision to not indict.”

Chung wrote on Facebook, “It’s not your private life. It’s verification as a public figure and the future of Korea.”

“It’s perplexing for me to ask, and for Mr. Lee to explain, but please understand it as a path to win the election. If Mr. Lee becomes our party’s candidate, it’s something the opposition party will attack anyway. Let’s get over it in advance,” he said.

A spokesman for Lee Nak-yon, another presidential hopeful of the Democratic Party, said on Facebook that the governor seems to have given up.

“If not, how can he answer like that when Mr. Chung, a former prime minister, asked in a TV debate,” he wrote.

Rep. Park Yong-jin, who also attended the debate as a preliminary candidate, said the governor’s response would have been “a major failure” if it occurred during the actual presidential election.

“He should answer (questions) even if they’re unfavorable and unpleasant for him. Previously, he took out his earpiece and left during a live interview after he was asked an embarrassing question,” Park said in a radio interview Tuesday morning.

Park also said it was a pity that the governor, after having spoken about how the government should finance basic incomes on Facebook and in an international seminar, then claimed it was not part of his election pledges.


By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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