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[Newsmaker] Lee Jun-seok says 'salute the rank, not the man'

People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok (Yonhap)
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok (Yonhap)
Main opposition People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok warned the minor opposition People’s Party to not treat him like a kid as the two parties blamed each other for failing to discuss a merger.

“I recommend to the People’s Party, ‘Salute the rank, not the man,’” Lee wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, quoting a line from the American war drama miniseries “Band of Brothers,” with a link to a scene in the series.

“They (People’s Party) can’t give a normal answer to a normal question because they see Lee Jun-seok as a greenhorn, not the leader of a party.”

The 36-year-old PPP leader added that the People’s Party is just focused on him, rather than the cause for a merger or Koreans’ aspiration for uniting the opposition.

Lee recently pressed Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People’s Party, to hold a meeting with him by this week to discuss the merger, after working-level talks between the parties faltered last week.

Lee said the merger must take place by this weekend as his party will hold its primary in late August.

People’s Party Floor Leader Kwon Eun-hee said her party does not at all feel the need to dance to Lee’s tune as his attitude was insincere.

Kim Yoon, chief of the People’s Party’s Seoul committee, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that his party has to “fight the thieves that manipulated public opinion to steal power, while subduing a greenhorn who got too big for his boots and is playing tricks.”

Lee shot back on Facebook, saying “that must be the People’s Party’s approach to talking to centrists. I don’t know how talking like that to a 37-year-old (Korean age) party leader would look like to people in their 20s and 30s.”

When Lee set this week as the deadline for the talks, Kim said, “How dare he make threats.”

Both Kwon and Kim were in the working-level negotiation team.

Lee said in a CBS radio interview Wednesday morning that he expects Ahn to speak himself, and criticized the minor opposition party for saying different things on the conditions for the merger, which he believes means they lack the desire to join forces.

Lee noted that Kwon said negotiation on the party’s post-merger name was a must, and then the party’s secretary general Lee Tae-kyu said it wasn’t.

Lee Jun-seok said he wants Ahn to get on the People Power Party’s “primary bus,” but can’t put up with noisy passengers.

“If the passengers talk too much, saying ‘I’ll get on if the bus innovates itself,’ or refuses to get on, saying ‘the bus driver gave me a dirty look,’ we just shut the door and leave,” Lee said.

“We won’t get played by Ahn’s repeated negotiation tactics.”

Lee Tae-kyu said on the same CBS radio show Tuesday that Lee’s “it’s this week or never” remark showed little respect for the People’s Party.

“We don’t have (enough) money or manpower, but we don’t lack pride,” People’s Party’s Lee said, adding that the main opposition leader could have said it more respectfully.

“If we respond to that, it would look like Ahn is caving into Lee’s overbearing attitude, and we just follow whatever Lee says.”

Ahn proposed the merger first in the run-up to the Seoul mayoral by-election on April 7, but the two sides failed to narrow differences on change of party name, among other things.

Also on Wednesday, the People’s Party said one of its officials was confirmed with COVID-19, so everyone who works at the party office got tested, and Ahn will cancel his schedules until he receives his test results.

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