What They Said is a weekly series on the quotes behind the headlines.
The People Power Party is getting ready to elect its next party leader, and currently at the head of the race is Yoo Seong-min. However, Yoo has been labeled a traitor by supporters of former president Park Geun-hye for his conflicts with Park, and he also seems to be disliked by President Yoon Suk Yeol. Immediately after Yoon was elected president, Yoo competed against Kim Eun-hye to be the party candidate for the governorship of Gyeonggi Province. Kim, who had been the spokesperson for the Yoon camp and now serves as the senior press secretary for the president, won the contest and Yoo claimed that there had been “no fairness or common sense in this election. I lost the duel against President-elect Yoon”, hinting that Yoon’s intentions might have been reflected in the election results. The results combined 50% of the popular vote and 50% of the Responsible Members’ votes, and while Yoo won the popular vote, he lost the party vote. Later, Lee Jun-seok, the former People Power Party leader who fell out with Yoon, confirmed Yoo’s suspicions by speaking out about the organized “solidarity against Yoo” within the party.
As the party gets ready to elect a new leader, Yoo has been busy posting links to articles that seem him as the front-runner. On December 12, however, suggestions began to emerge that the People Power Party was planning to change its voting rules.
On December 16, Yoo highlighted an article with the headline “President Yoon says ‘Wouldn’t it be better to do a 100% party vote?’” referring to the rules and regulations for the election of the new party leader by the party convention:
“Wouldn’t it be better to do a 100% party vote?”
Apparently this is what President Yoon Suk Yeol said in private.
The Office of the President and his close associates, dubbed Yoon haekgwan [Yoon’s key people], have not denied the claims made in these news reports.
As the head investigator of the special prosecution team during his time at the Prosecution Service, President Yoon Suk Yeol sought a 45-year sentence for former president Park Geun-hye, and she was sentenced to 22 years.
Included in this were two years of penal servitude for intervening in the party’s nomination process.
Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates:
‘Paragraph 1. All public officials shall be servants of the entire people and shall be responsible to the people.
Paragraph 2. The status and political impartiality of public officials shall be guaranteed as prescribed by law.”
Paragraph 2 in Article 57-6 on the Prohibition against Primary Election Campaigns by Public Officials, etc. of the Public Official Election Act stipulates ‘No public official may conduct a primary election campaign using his or her status’, while articles 85 and 86 stipulate the duty of a public official to maintain political neutrality and the prohibition on influencing an election. Article 255 of the same Act on unlawful election campaigns prescribes five years or less of penal servitude for public officials who interfere in an election.
The president is a public official who must strictly abide by the Constitution and other laws.
So I would sternly like to say to President Yoon Suk Yeol:
Interfering in an election is a serious violation. Are you not afraid of public sentiment? The people are watching.”
— Yoo Seong-min, politician and member of the People Power Party, December 16, 2022
The first to mention the idea of the 100% party vote, Kim Haeng, a member of the People Power Party’s Emergency Committee, appeared on the CBS radio show Kim Hyun-jung’s News Show and said that the 100% party vote for the party leader and members of the Supreme Council was all her idea:
“What I would really like to say here is that I haven’t received any instructions from the president. There seems to be a misconception that we are heading in this direction under orders from the president, but it was I who went around saying that only the party members should vote [in party elections] to realize responsible party democracy. Particularly because we are now entering the era of a million party members. I worked ardently to spread this idea.”
— Kim Haeng, member of the People Power Party’s Emergency Committee, December 19, 2022
Ahn Cheol-soo, who is currently a member of the People Power Party, after his People’s Party was dissolved in a merger with the People Power Party in the run up to the presidential election earlier this year, also objected to the change in rules, saying that the opinion of party supporters, who are not necessarily party members, should also matter. He suggested adding a provision to prevent adverse selection instead.
Chung Jin-suk, the chairman of the People Power Party’s Emergency Committee, went ahead with bringing the bill to change the party rules to the table:
“Currently, the party constitution stipulates that when electing the party leader or members of the Supreme Council the results should consist of the votes of the party members and of the general public in a ratio of 7 to 3. The amendment to the rules stipulates that the election should be a 100% party members’ vote. The Emergency Committee confirmed without objection the idea that it would be in line with party democracy to have the party leadership elected by its members, who share the same ideology and political orientation.”
— Chung Jin-suk, chairman of the People Power Party’s Emergency Committee, December 19, 2022
The bill was passed unanimously by the Emergency Committee, changing the party constitution. It is presumed that the next convention of the People Power Party, where the party leader will be elected, will take place in February or early March of next year, as Chung Jin-suk’s term as the chairman of the party’s Emergency Committee comes to an end on March 12, 2023. Who will be the next leader of the People Power Party?