What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
On February 15, the first day of the official presidential campaign period, two people tragically died on a campaign bus for the People’s Party. The deaths are presumed to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. That evening, at an emergency press conference, the People’s Party announced that all campaigning for its presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo would be suspended.
The candidates of the Democratic Party of Korea and the People Power Party visited the funeral home the following day to offer condolences. They also refrained from dancing and playing campaign songs as a mark of respect for the deceased.
On February 18, amid criticism that the People’s Party was responsible for the two deaths as a result of not following proper safety procedures for the campaign buses, Ahn spoke at the funeral of one of the victims, Sohn Pyeong-oh, a co-chairman of the party’s regional election campaign committee:
… I, Ahn Cheol-soo, will uphold the wishes of our colleague Sohn [Pyeong-oh], and will grow stronger through the sorrow and determination of our party members who are here to say goodbye to him.
We will walk the path of change and innovation, the path to the future, not the past, and the path of unity rather than division with a stronger and more resolute unwavering will.
We will surely win and usher in a new era that will go down in the history of the Republic of Korea as an era of science and practicality rather than an era of ideologies and factions.
I will continue steadfastly along this path for the righteousness that Sohn, I, and our colleagues aimed to achieve, and for the end of the old system and the beginning of a new era that Sohn, I, and our colleagues aimed to bring about.
I, Ahn Cheol-soo, will uphold Sohn’s wishes by doing my best and not succumbing to the strong winds and waves that may come my way. I will never, ever give up. With an iron will and a resolve as strong as rope, I, Ahn Cheol-soo, will continue on the path that Sohn and all of us have pursued.
We will surely win and create a world without foul play and privileges, a fair world without vested interests, and a world where honest people are respected and recognized for their hard work.
We will never stop until we create an era of good people, where our sons and daughters can be genuinely happy.
— Ahn Cheol-soo, presidential candidate for the People’s Party, February 19, 2022.
The following day, he appeared on a livestream broadcast on the party’s YouTube channel, where he once again hinted at his intent to see the presidential campaign through to the end, rather than working with the People Power Party to choose a unified candidate:
Unlike how I felt a week ago, there is now a deeply ingrained determination in my heart that I should never let a person’s death be in vain. So, I wanted to tell everyone, at least virtually, that Ahn Cheol-soo today feels completely different from the Ahn Cheol-soo of a week ago. And I really wanted to say that we need to save the Republic of Korea from this crisis situation, and that is why we arranged this livestream.
— Ahn Cheol-soo, presidential candidate of the People’s Party, February 19, 2022.
With Ahn more or less rescinding his proposal for agreeing on a single, unified candidate from the two opposition parties (and officially doing so on the afternoon of February 20), Lee Jun-seok, the leader of the People Power Party, who had been skeptical about Ahn’s proposal from the start, seemed to go a little too far on February 20, 2022, when he said during a KBS radio interview:
… I don’t generally criticize condolences, but I wish people would stop saying things like that. The People’s Party says that it will carry out the election campaign to uphold the dying wishes of the deceased … But this doesn’t make sense to me, because the deceased’s wishes… His death was sudden and unexpected, so where could they have confirmed his dying wishes? Do people who drive campaign vehicles or buses for the People’s Party write their wills before getting on those vehicles? I am not trying to criticize [the People’s Party], but the people are well aware that it makes no logical sense. So, what I am saying is that, continuing as he is doing now, using the deceased as an excuse and saying that they will uphold the man’s dying wishes is… I’m not going to criticize them for that, but I just don’t understand.
— Lee Jun-seok, leader of the People Power Party, February 20, 2022.
Many expressed outrage at Lee’s remarks, including representatives of the People’s Party, the Democratic Party, and the Basic Income Party.
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok should apologize immediately for his insulting remarks about the deceased and should resign.
During a live interview, Lee Jun-seok deliberately distorted presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s words about fulfilling the wishes of our colleague, who died in an unexpected accident, and insulted the deceased by saying, “His death was sudden and unexpected, so where could they have confirmed his dying wishes?”
Lee’s remark that one who has suffered a sudden and devastating death has no dying wishes is a serious defamation of the deceased.
According to his family, the late regional chairperson Sohn was delighted to wear his uniform for candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s election campaign even on the day of his death.
Lee Jun-seok’s remarks today are not only blasphemy against those who have worked hard for the People’s Party to achieve a better change in government, but are also insulting remarks that sprinkle salt on the wounds of the bereaved family.
No matter how ruthless politics may be, when one breaks away from human morality he is no different from a beast.
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok appeared on the radio with blasphemous remarks after strategically calculating how to use another party’s unexpected accident to his advantage. We demand that he apologize immediately for those remarks and urge him to resign from his position as party leader.
— Shin Na-ri, deputy spokesperson for the Central Election Committee of the People’s Party, February 20, 2022.
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok’s flippant behavior and disrespectful remarks are astonishing.
In response to candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s declaration of his intention to uphold the wishes of the deceased by seeing the race through to the end, Lee remarked, “His death was sudden and unexpected, so where could they have confirmed his dying wishes?”
These unmentionable words were spoken with enthusiasm, not even in a private meeting, but in a public broadcast.
These are remarks that violate basic human morals.
The remarks of Lee Jun-seok, who shows no basic courtesy or respect for the deceased, are horrendous and difficult to even comment on.
A tragic accident occurred for Ahn Cheol-soo’s campaign, and yet Lee Jun-seok posted “I have taken swift action to send condolence flowers”, making people frown.
There is no basic empathy for human beings, let alone respect for others, in his remarks.
His remarks are a disgrace and have arisen from the kinds of criticism, vulgar language, and inhuman behavior displayed by candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and the People Power Party.
And, as if this is not enough, Lee continues to make terrible excuses rather than admitting and apologizing for his mistake.
Given his unrepentant attitude, it is even clearer that his remarks were not a mistake but a reflection of his true nature.
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok must immediately retract his disrespectful remarks that defame the reputation of the deceased and kneel down to apologize to the deceased and his family.
— Baek Hye-ryeon, senior spokesperson for the Election Campaign Committee of the Democratic Party of Korea, February 20, 2022.
Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo has retracted his proposal for a unified candidate. I am not at all interested in how the choosing of a unified candidate will turn out between the People Power Party and the People’s Party, who do not care in the least about people’s lives and only care about a change in government. But the words of the leader of the largest opposition party in this discussion are hard to bear.
Even though he is a party leader who has maintained his political reputation by appearing on TV instead of implementing policies, is it the right thing to do as the leader of the first opposition party to make an issue of the death of an election campaigner of another party?
I hope he will behave in a manner properly befitting the position of the leader of the first opposition party. I hope that he will see beyond the illusion that he can continue to talk rudely in the future just because people have so far tolerated his brutish words to some extent. If he is a politician who is afraid of the people, I believe that he will understand what I mean. Although, I don’t think he can.
— Yong Hye-in, National Assembly member for the Basic Income Party, February 20, 2022.
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