DP leadership candidates slam Gov. Lee

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DP leadership candidates slam Gov. Lee

Contenders for the ruling party’s top post are demanding answers from a popular governor in their own party over his alleged connections to a local gang as they jockey for broad support ahead of a party convention next month.

Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, one of the three candidates for chairman of the Democratic Party, pressed Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung to explain the allegations on Sunday.

“If these allegations are groundless, then Lee should prove his innocence,” Kim said. “If not, he needs to act accordingly,” suggesting that Lee should leave the party.

Rep. Song Young-gil, who is running against Kim, said on Monday he would “sternly deal with” Lee’s case if he becomes the party chairman.

Rumors of Lee’s connection to a local gang when he was mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi, first surfaced in April and were once again revisited earlier this month on the SBS investigative journalism program, “We Want to Know.”

The report raised questions about ties between the Seongnam city government and a gang called International Mafia. According to the report, Komatrade, a company run by a former member of the gang, contributed 8 million won ($7,150) to an event organized by Seongnam FC, the city’s football club, in May 2016.

Then in October 2016, the Seongnam city government recognized Komatrade’s president as a notable small business CEO. Every year, the local government recognizes three presidents of small and medium-sized enterprises in the city and awards them certain advantages such as local tax audit exemptions.

The report noted that Lee had defended two people in a case concerning International Mafia in 2007, when he was a lawyer.

Aside from the gang allegation, Lee is also embroiled in a scandal over an alleged extramarital affair with actress Kim Boo-sun from 2007 to 2009.

Lee denied having the affair, but the actress shot back, accusing the governor of lying to the public.

Kim Jin-pyo, the candidate for party leadership, said Lee’s scandals were a “big burden” for the party. “It is also burdening President Moon Jae-in,” he said, “and impacting the party’s decline in approval ratings.”

Song, the other candidate, said that if he became chairman, he would urge the police to get to the bottom of the case in a fair manner.

He added that even if Lee was found to have done nothing wrong legally, he would refer the probe outcome to the party’s ethics committee to determine whether he had violated ethical codes by defending two people involved in the International Mafia.

The Democratic Party plans to elect a new leader on Aug. 25. Whoever wins will steer the party of 129 lawmakers for the next two years.

Kim, Song and Lee Hae-chan are the three candidates.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]
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