What They Said is a weekly series on the quotes behind the headlines.
After much commotion over the People Power Party’s leadership election at the upcoming party convention, the four candidates that made it through are: Kim Gi-hyeon, the leading candidate backed by the president; Ahn Cheol-soo, who has at times received more votes than Kim in polls of party supporters; Hwang Kyo-ahn, former prime minister; and Cheon Ha-ram, an underdog from the Lee Jun-seok and Yoo Seong-min line.
Still, it seems that the president and the party’s executives are making efforts to ensure Kim’s victory. Shin Pyeong, a judge-turned-lawyer who has been unofficially serving as Yoon Suk Yeol’s mentor (although he has recently denied this claim), criticized Ahn Cheol-soo harshly.
On February 3, Shin wrote on Facebook:
“National Assembly member Ahn Cheol-soo gained momentum in the upcoming election for People Power party leader. Asserting that he will provide support for Yoon rather than receive Yoon’s support, Ahn claimed that President Yoon Suk Yeol will receive huge support from him once he becomes the party leader. This led the officials from the Office of the President to come forward and speak up about how the relationship between President Yoon and Ahn has always been tense and out of step.
Looking back, I can’t say that the relationship between the two has been good from the beginning. During the presidential election, even though their first effort for unity was near completion, Ahn’s attitude was incomprehensible, seemingly denying the groundwork for the cause and refusing to reach an agreement. Afterward, when I advised the then-presidential candidate Yoon Suk Yeol that he needed to pursue unity with Ahn, I vividly remember Yoon expressing considerable doubt about Ahn’s credibility. After that, during the transition period and the process of sculpting the administration, President Yoon made utmost efforts to uphold the spirit of mutual agreement with Ahn to form a joint administration. Yet, I believe that these efforts came to nothing because of the situation on Ahn’s side. Meanwhile, since the inauguration of the Yoon administration, there is no trace of Ahn standing on the side of the government and playing a role to help the administration in difficult times. Even when former party leader Lee Jun-seok attacked president Yoon like a venomous snake aiming to sink its poisonous teeth into the administration, Ahn merely watched from afar. Until now, he has consistently remained a bystander in state affairs.
Next year’s general election will be a major event that decides the fate of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration. If the losing party loses, the Yoon administration will end up in a vegetative state and barely maintain its existence until eventually fading to nothing. And it is absolutely clear that this general election is a mid-term assessment of President Yoon. So why is Ahn Cheol-soo insisting on running for the position of party leader, who will have to direct this general election? As if he’d forgotten all about taking on the role of a bystander to President Yoon and the Yoon administration so far, he says out of nowhere that he will become the party leader and help the Yoon administration. But his argument is incoherent, and his words are possibly meant to mock the Yoon administration.
I expect that National Assembly member Kim Gi-hyeon will easily be elected party leader with solid support from the party members who hope for the success of the Yoon administration. But affairs of this world always come with seeds of change. So if Ahn becomes the party leader, what will happen?
Depending on the case, President Yoon might be forced into a situation where he has no choice but to defect from the party and create a new party through political reform. Because it would be difficult for him to give up on the strong hope and will to make this general election, which will be significant for him as an assessment of his administration so far, one where he will be in the frontlines. And once the group of people who wish to side with President Yoon have gone their separate ways, the People Power Party will turn into a union of Ahn, former party leader Lee Jun-seok, and former National Assembly member Yoo Seong-min. I can surmise to an extent what kind of political significance that party will have. …”
— Shin Pyeong, President Yoon Suk Yeol’s unofficial mentor and former chairman of the sponsorship committee for the People Power Party leader candidate Kim Gi-hyeon, February 3, 2023
Shin’s controversial words brought on a whirlwind of criticisms from within the People Power Party. Interestingly, the Office of the President has yet to comment on Shin’s statement.
In other news, Lee Jae-myung made another appearance before prosecutors on February 10 for questioning by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office regarding the so-called Daejang-dong scandal.
Prior to entering the prosecutors’ office, Lee read a prepared statement, criticizing the Yoon administration for neglecting people’s lives and focusing on taking political vengeance:
“… What are the public authorities doing to maintain order through a fair investigation in the face of public anxiety and suffering?
This is the era of ‘one law for the prosecutors and another for everyone else.’
Who among the Korean people would accept the decision that former prosecutor Kwak Sang-do is innocent of the suspicion of receiving 5 billion won as a bribe?
Had the prosecutors’ office spent even just a tenth of its investigative power devoted to catching Lee Jae-myung on investigating the 5 billion-won club.
While some young people slave away for 150 hours a week and yet can barely put food on the table, the son of a high-ranking official who was just starting his career packs up several billion won as severance pay.
Is this the fairness that the Yoon Suk Yeol administration has been touting? Can you not hear the sound of the breaking hearts of ordinary young people?
Instead of spending time making up crimes to kill Lee Jae-myung, go and catch the criminal who extorted housing deposits from hundreds of people. Use your authority to save the people who have been driven to the edge of the cliff.
This is already the third time I have been summoned.
The country was abuzz with my first summons in relation to the Seongnam Football Club incident, but the prosecutors have not been able to present clear evidence yet. Even after the second summons, which led to a controversy over delayed and additional questioning, there hasn’t been any evidence of plausible breach of trust regarding the Daejang-dong scandal other than the changed statements of desperate witnesses who have been manipulated by the prosecution. The suspicion of the former chairman Kim Seong-tae that the underwear maker Ssangbangwool had paid for my lawyer fees, which some have said would end my career, has vanished without a trace since Kim was arrested.
They abused the investigative right, which should be impartial, to fabricate all sorts of unreasonable suspicions against me, and now they began the outdated north wind hunt
Honestly, I am mortified, tired, and pained. The open summons, where I have to face bursts of camera flashes at the photo line, are shameful for me, as if I am being dragged around in public for ridicule. Yet due to my shortcomings, the prosecution service, which was a servant of power, became the power itself, and therefore I will accept my current state as karma. The lives of the people are getting worse day by day; the state that I am in is nothing compared to that.
I will resolutely face off the dictatorial prosecution administration that forges crimes and pins them on people without power and covers up the crimes of people with power. I will not avoid the arrow of lies and strongly believe in the shield of truth.
I will look after the lives of the people, which the Yoon Suk Yeol administration has done nothing for, save the regressing democracy, and keep peace through the looming threat of war. I will try until I die to answer my calling and play my given role without a speck of negligence, without wasting even a single second.
We cannot reach dawn without going through the night. As we go through an exceptionally deep and long night, I will hold onto my belief that dawn will surely come. Thank you.”
— Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, February 10, 2023