An unfit party leaderEven before the fanfare for the festive election of the youngest-ever chairman of the People Power Party (PPP) subsides, discord is aplenty in the main opposition with less than seven months left before the next presidential election in March. Party insiders’ hopes for vitality from 36-year-old Lee Jun-seok are suddenly turning into despair just two months after his election as head of the conservative party.
After Shin Ji-ho, a political aide to frontrunner Yoon Seok-youl, a former prosecutor general, attacked the thirty-something party leader for making arbitrary decisions on the party’s internal race to pick its presidential candidate, Lee fiercely refuted his remarks. The exchange pushed the party to a new level of peril. Shin, a former lawmaker, quickly apologized for his remarks.
But whether Lee acted as party leader appropriately is a different matter. As PPP chairman, he must represent the conservative party in a battle against the liberal Democratic Party (DP). However, his Facebook shows no record of his positions on the unstable vaccine supplies under the Moon Jae-in administration or the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, not to mention on the dangerous move by the ruling party to railroad a controversial media arbitration bill through the National Assembly. After Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, was sentenced to four years in jail in an appellate trial Thursday for fabricating certificates to help her daughter get admitted to top colleges, Lee kept mum. A senior official of the PPP lamented that the party leader shuns a fight with the DP.
But Lee aggressively engaged in a political battle inside and outside. Earlier this month, he was bent on assaulting the splinter opposition People Party and recently attacking the Yoon camp. One of the comments Lee posted on Facebook even compared a senior PPP lawmaker to a “hyena.” A party leader fueling internal conflict rather than mediating it — and using vulgar language — does not deserve respect from party members.
Lee strongly reacted to criticism. After former Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong, a presidential candidate of the PPP, warned of “unfairness in picking the party’s presidential candidate,” Lee blamed others for “trying to do only what they like.”
Lee also made bombshell remarks in March. “If Yoon Seok-youl really becomes the president, I will leave the Earth […] I will make Yoo Seung-min our next president,” he said. Even Yoo, a former lawmaker and Lee’s political mentor, asked Lee to spend more time thinking than speaking. Does Lee want a victory in the presidential election or combat with opponents?