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[Newsmaker] PPP presidential contenders in slugfest

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the People Power Party at the Gwangju May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju on Friday (Yonhap)
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the People Power Party at the Gwangju May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju on Friday (Yonhap)
People aiming to be the main opposition party‘s candidate for president are busy attacking each other ahead of the primary.

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the People Power Party has been blasting Yoon Seok-youl for his lack of experience; former legislator Yoo Seung-min and ex-chief state auditor Choe Jae-hyeong have been arguing over adding a clause in the primary rules; and former Jeju governor Won Hee-ryong has been harassing PPP leader Lee Jun-seok.

“Someone who has been doing only prosecutorial office work for 26 years suddenly says he wants to be president,” Hong said about Yoon in a radio interview on Thursday, adding it was questionable whether he can learn about other things quickly.

A president should be experienced in politics, the economy, social issues, culture, North Korean issues, national security, defense and foreign affairs, and be able to answer with a basic direction to anything anyone asks, the five-term lawmaker and former governor of South Gyeongsang said in a press conference at the provincial government office of North Chungcheong later Thursday.

“Otherwise, he will just be an A4 president, like President Moon (Jae-in). If you’re just reading what people wrote for you, you’re not the president, you’re a puppet,” he said.

Regarding Yoon’s camp having complained about the party’s debate plan, Hong said he should step down if he thinks his ratings will fall because of the debate.

Yoon continues to say the wrong things because he is not prepared and is refusing debates because he has no knowledge or ideas about various fields, said Hong, who entered politics 25 years ago as a legislator after being a prosecutor.

Yoo and Choe have bickered over whether to apply a clause in the primary rules that prevents adverse selection by non-PPP supporters in polls, which would require surveying only PPP supporters or non-partisan voters.

Pointing to how Yoo was more popular among ruling party supporters than PPP supporters in recent polls, Choe’s camp said Democratic Party of Korea supporters were strategically choosing Yoo because they’re likely to win the presidential election if Yoo becomes the PPP’s candidate.

Yoo’s camp responded by saying that past presidential elections show that one can’t win without the support of centrists.

Yoo and Hong say the clause to prevent adverse selection is not necessary.

The PPP’s primary preparation committee has already decided not to adopt the clause, but Choe is strongly demanding it, and Yoon said it should be discussed after the party’s election management committee takes off.

Won claimed that Lee said “Yoon will be gone soon” during a private conversation on the phone, and accused the party leader of lying when he denied it.

While such denunciations could help highlight the contenders’ presence ahead of the primary, there are concerns that repeated attacks within the PPP could bring about mutual destruction.

Rep. Kim Jae-won, a member of the PPP’s supreme council, said in a radio interview that there is no need to fight any more, and the election management committee should be launched quickly to fairly manage the primary.

Seven first-time PPP lawmakers pleaded to the presidential hopefuls to end the internal feuding and focus on the goal of changing of government in a joint statement.

By Kim So-hyun (