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[Newsmaker] Estranged Lee Jun-seok to launch new party

Ex-People Power Party leader announces departure as new interim chief seemingly snubs him

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Dec. 27, 2023 - 15:34

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Ex-leader of the People Power Party Lee Jun-seok speaks at a press conference held at a restaurant in Nowon-gu, northeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Ex-leader of the People Power Party Lee Jun-seok speaks at a press conference held at a restaurant in Nowon-gu, northeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The estranged ex-leader of the ruling party, Lee Jun-seok, said Wednesday he would launch a new political party of his own, as the new interim party leader made no moves to convince him to stay.

"I have decided to leave the People Power Party, leaving all my political assets tied to it behind," the 38-year-old politician announced in a press conference held in the afternoon at a restaurant in Nowon-gu, northeastern Seoul.

Lee spent his childhood in Nowon-gu and sought to represent the area by running in a total of three parliamentary elections held between 2016 to 2020 but failed in all of them.

"I will work towards launching a party that listens to the general concerns of the Korean citizens and not only that of the president," Lee added, indirectly criticizing the People Power Party and its close ties with President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Since last month, Lee has repeatedly said he would announce the launch of his new party if Yoon failed to carry out policy reforms and stop himself from being too closely attached to the ruling party.

All eyes were on whether the People Power Party’s new interim leader, Han Dong-hoon, would convince Lee to stay in the party, but the former justice minister made no such attempts before Lee announced his departure.

Han has indirectly expressed that he has no interest in wooing Lee on Tuesday. Han told reporters after his inaugural event on Tuesday that he “has no plans to meet with certain people at this stage,” in responding to questions asking whether he would talk with Lee. But the new interim leader added that he is willing to meet and listen to various people with “different thoughts regardless of their political beliefs.”

Lee said in a radio interview last week that though he is willing to meet Han if the opportunity arises, he has “no expectations.”

Lee, who has avid followers among male voters in their 20s and 30s, has been criticized for using an “anti-feminism” narrative to gain support. He became the youngest-ever leader of the ruling party in 2021 at the age of 36 at the time but was ousted from the role last year over allegations of sexual bribery and an attempted cover-up.

Lee was suspended from party membership until last month. The now-disbanded People Power Party reform committee and the party decision-makers decided to lift the ban as part of reform measures.

Meanwhile, a Gallup Korea survey released on Dec. 10 involving 1,033 South Koreans aged 18 and older showed that 50 percent showed disapproval of Lee Jun-seok’s possible establishment of a new party. Some 32 percent of respondents said they showed approval of the new party, while 18 percent either replied they were “uncertain” of their viewpoint or refused to reply.