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[Newsmaker] Main opposition in leadership fracas

Ruling party sees food critic at center of its own feuds

Lee Jun-seok, the chairman of the People Power Party (Yonhap)
Lee Jun-seok, the chairman of the People Power Party (Yonhap)
A day after canceling a planned debate because a leading presidential contender was unhappy about it, the main opposition party on Wednesday was wrangling over its leader’s comments in a private conversation.

Won Hee-ryong, former Jeju governor and a preliminary presidential candidate of the People Power Party, claimed that party leader Lee Jun-seok told him on the phone that Yoon Seok-youl, the ex-prosecutor general and the party’s most popular presidential hopeful, “will be gone soon.”

Lee disclosed a transcript of an excerpt of his conversation with Won on Facebook Tuesday night, in which he said “that will be cleared up soon,” referring to the ongoing conflict between him and Yoon’s camp toward the primary.

Lee said the exchange over the telephone was transcribed through an app on his phone.

Won held a press conference Wednesday morning calling on Lee to disclose the entire recording by 6 p.m.

Won insisted that the entire conversation would show that Lee meant Yoon would be out of the race soon.

“I say clearly with my conscience and memory,” Won said, adding that by listening, one can “feel the flow of the conversation, the context, the nuance and the emotion.”

Won also accused Lee of changing his words earlier. An unidentified person close to Lee reportedly said last week that a transcript of the recording was leaked by mistake, and Lee later said such transcript did not exist.

Won said Lee was being “hypocritical and senseless.”

Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the PPP called on Won to stop the mudslinging and drop his presidential bid.

Ha slammed Won as a person who “doesn’t qualify as president,” accusing him of inciting disorder within the party when the conflict was about to be subdued.

Citing Won’s earlier remark that Yoon’s camp had asked him to join the boycott of debates planned by the party’s primary preparation committee, Ha said Won himself was a repeat offender.

Lee, who wrote earlier on Facebook that he would bear in mind Won’s advice, responded to Won’s press conference on Wednesday with a terse, “it’s just pathetic.”

Meanwhile in the ruling Democratic Party, a food critic recently named CEO of the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization by Lee Jae-myung, Gyeonggi governor and leading presidential contender, made headlines on Wednesday by vowing to “end the political life” of the governor’s rival Lee Nak-yon.

Lee Nak-yon’s camp has criticized Lee’s nomination of Hwang Gyo-ik as chief of the state-funded company, pointing to how Hwang often spoke highly of Japanese food and said some Korean food were imitations.

The tourism organization of Tokyo or Osaka is more befitting for Hwang, Shin Kyung-min, deputy chief of Lee Nak-yon’s camp, said Tuesday.

Shin noted Hwang’s comments that sending Korean food to South Korean athletes competing during the Tokyo Olympics was “like packing food to a party.”

Other presidential contenders of the DP such as Chung Sye-kyun and Kim Du-kwan also condemned Lee Jae-myung’s nomination of Hwang, saying it was requital for Hwang’s support of the governor.

Hwang said his nomination was his “right” that he achieved with his abilities, stressing that he will focus on “ending the political life” of Lee Nak-yon until his confirmation hearing.

The food critic had previously called Lee’s camp members “beasts” in an earlier media interview.



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