PPP's vision of 'one-team' campaign with Hong goes down the drain
PPP presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and Hong had a closed-door dinner meeting last Wednesday in what appeared to be Yoon's attempt to woo his main rival in the party's primary race for a unified campaign.
However, Hong has since expressed his disgruntlement with Yoon and described the PPP presidential candidate as "thick-faced and black-hearted" Friday, indicating that a one-team approach would not be feasible.
On Sunday, Hong made multiple posts on his youth outreach platform website addressing his supporters and expressing his desire for expulsion from the PPP, apparently relaying his desire to depart from the party.
Under one post asking Hong to "completely cut ties with Yoon," the lawmaker wrote, "As Kwon Young-se said, I would rather feel at ease if I were expelled from the party. If something happen to the elections, these guys will blame me."
Yoon's election campaign committee regrouped earlier this month, resulting in the ousting its former chief, veteran politician Kim Chong-in. PPP Rep. Kwon Young-se was appointed as the campaign's new secretary general on Jan. 9 and Yoon has worked to revamp his campaign, which has been criticized for his key aides having too much influence, and make it more unified and streamlined.
In early November, Yoon narrowly beat PPP primary runner-up Hong, who accepted defeat on the spot in a sign of unity of the conservative party. Hong won more primary votes from the general public than Yoon and also had been more popular among the key younger demographic.
However, Hong has often been a vocal critic of Yoon and generally resisted in joining in his campaign activities.
During their dinner last Wednesday, Yoon asked Hong to be a part of his "one team" for the campaign period, to which Hong reportedly responded by saying he would join Yoon's campaign as a standing adviser if the candidate undertakes measures that would attest to his administrative competence and publicly vows to sternly deal with his mother-in-law's corruption allegations.
Hong also requested Yoon to exert influence in nominating some figures for the upcoming legislative by-elections, according to media reports Thursday. This included Choe Jae-hyeong, former chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, and Lee Jin-hoon, a former district office head in Daegu, for strategically important parliamentary seats in central Seoul's Jongno District and Daegu's Jung and Nam Districts.
Rep. Kwon denounced Hong for making an unfair request to Yoon and said Thursday that "someone who is at a leadership level within the party should act accordingly," warning against adhering to "outdated" ways.
"Now is a very important moment, and I made it clear that everyone in the party should act responsibly," said Kwon in a campaign committee meeting. "Leadership figures within the party should be acting like leaders in this critical time of the presidential election. If they do not, and resort to outdated politics, they should be not only be deprived of their qualification as a leader, but as a party member."
Hong told reporters afterward, "How can he criticize me for what I discussed with the candidates," calling it "arrogance."
Hong was also a recurring subject in a series of phone calls between Yoon's wife Kim Keon-hee and a liberal reporter. After Kim accused of Hong in taking part in a shamanistic ritual, according to the recordings revealed through media, he called her a "liar" Sunday.
The five-term lawmaker rejoined the PPP in June 2021 after defecting from it in June 2020 in protest of being disqualified for running for the parliamentary election on the party's ticket.
Some PPP campaign officials indicated that Yoon, who has been able to draw back young male voters again after rebooting his campaign, no longer has a need for Hong's support to draw in the youth demographic.
Hong held a closed-door meeting with the chief of the People's Party election campaign Monday afternoon, the JoongAng Ilbo reported Monday, raising speculation he may be considering supporting the minor opposition party's candidate Ahn Cheol-soo after his fallout with Yoon.
Hong met with Choi Jin-seok, a moderate-conservative professor emeritus at Sogang University who was recently recruited to Ahn's campaign, for around 30 minutes at the National Assembly. The two reportedly had never met before.
Choi told the JoongAng Ilbo after the meeting that he had given Hong a book and conveyed new year's greetings, downplaying any political implications of the meeting.
Ahn has seen a rise in popularity earlier this month, seeing approval ratings break double digits for the first time and especially being favored by younger voters. Both the PPP and People's Party have so far denied the possibility of a merger to produce a unified opposition candidate.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]