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Once tight-lipped Yoon talks self into trouble

Seeking to explain “King” character on hand, opposition presidential candidate associates Korean women with fortunetellers

The Chinese character meaning “king” can be seen on the palm of Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s left hand during a televised debate Friday. (Screenshot of MBN News YouTube channel)
The Chinese character meaning “king” can be seen on the palm of Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s left hand during a televised debate Friday. (Screenshot of MBN News YouTube channel)
In June, former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl stormed the political landscape as he announced his bid to run for the presidential campaign. Since then, polls have repeatedly picked him as one of the front-runners among all presidential contenders both from his People Power Party and the opposite Democratic Party.

Yoon has continuously put himself at the center of attention with his controversial comments. His latest lapse came during People Power Party’s televised debate hosted by local broadcaster KBS on Tuesday night.

Former lawmaker Yoo Seung-min asked the former prosecutor general if Yoon, his wife or his mother-in-law often meet with fortunetellers, referring to the reports that Yoon has close ties with practitioners of shamanism and incantation.

“I don’t really see them. I don’t know how my mother-in-law does. There are Korean women who go to fortunetellers,” Yoon said. His remarks led to immediate backlash.

Former Rep. Kim Jin-ai on Wednesday described this on Facebook as another absurd comment from Yoon and questioned if he was trying to throw women under the bus to emphasize that he does not go to fortunetellers.

During Tuesday’s debate, Yoon also came under fire from other presidential contenders after the Chinese character for “king” could be seen written on the palm of his left hand during a live TV debate, which was aired on cable channel MBN on Friday.

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, Yoon’s main rival from the People Power Party, pointed out that his unusual mark was reported on by international media in Hong Kong, adding that it was an international embarrassment.

Hong sarcastically asked Yoon if he did not have the talisman for Tuesday’s TV debate. Yoon said, “Today? If I thought it was a talisman, would I have it drawn on my palm?”

The former prosecutor general eventually apologized to the public for the controversy caused by the Chinese character written on his palm, saying that some supporters from his apartment had written the mark prior to the TV debate and he could not wash it off.

Besides the allegations against Yoon that he relies on superstitions, the former prosecutor general has already had a series of blunders in September.

In a video that was uploaded on Yoon’s YouTube channel on Sept. 29, he said if someone did not know what a housing subscription savings account was, then he or she must have dementia.

In his defense, Yoon was trying to explain his stance after his opponents criticized him for not clearly knowing the definition of housing subscription savings account in an earlier TV debate. His comment drew heavy uproar as it demeaned people with dementia.

The conservative party’s leading candidate made another mistake during a sit-down with students at Andong University on Sept. 13.

“Companies nowadays make a living off of technology. Nothing can be achieved by manual labor. India doesn’t even do that anymore. It’s something only a place like Africa still does,” Yoon said.

He also told the students that humanities can be studied along the sidelines of learning the subjects of engineering and natural science and not many students should study until senior years or through graduate schools.

Yoon’s comments were met with harsh criticism for belittling a continent, race and certain area of study.

The former prosecutor general also showed his lopsided view of the press in a press conference held on Sept. 8.

During the presser, Yoon tried to give his take on the power abuse allegations, which accused him of ordering his subordinates to give documents to conservative lawmakers and ask them to file criminal complaints against figures on the liberal side ahead of the general election in April last year when Yoon was the top prosecutor.

“If someone tries to stage a political scheme from now, I hope it will be raised through major press that everyone knows and through trustworthy people who can be trusted by anyone, rather than hiding behind Internet media, inmates or parliamentary immunity,” he said.

Yoon indirectly took a shot at Internet-based media outlet Newsverse, which first reported on the power abuse allegations.

Asked by reporters if allegations cannot be done by anyone but major media, Yoon said such leads should be given to media outlets that have a large readership or viewership and mentioned broadcasters KBS and MBC in the process.

Despite Yoon’s comments stirring side-eyes from politicians to the general public, the support rate for the former prosecutor general has not seemingly taken a hit.

According to the latest presidential poll released by the Korea Society Opinion Institute on Monday, Yoon came in second on the preference list of presidential candidates with 28.0 percent support. He trailed only Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, who took the first place with 28.3 percent.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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