Yoon Suk-yeol signs on to PPP's six-month leadership plan

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Yoon Suk-yeol signs on to PPP's six-month leadership plan

President Yoon Suk-yeol, right, shakes hands with Kweon Seong-dong, the floor leader and acting chief of the People Power Party, at a forum at the Shilla Hotel in central Seoul Wednesday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk-yeol, right, shakes hands with Kweon Seong-dong, the floor leader and acting chief of the People Power Party, at a forum at the Shilla Hotel in central Seoul Wednesday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk-yeol met with Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader and acting chief of the People Power Party (PPP), on Sunday to discuss the six-month suspension of PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok.  
 
The meeting was only reported on Tuesday, and was held at the request of Kweon, according to party officials. The unprecedented disciplinary action taken against Lee just two days earlier left a leadership vacuum within the PPP.
 
On Friday, the PPP's ethics committee suspended Lee's party membership for six months over allegations he accepted sexual services as a bribe from a businessman in 2013 and later tried to cover it up.  
 
Kweon reportedly told Yoon of a plan for the party to be run by an acting chairman for six months rather than holding an early national convention elect a new PPP chief to replace Lee, according to party officials. He said Lee's suspension should be considered an "accident" rather than a "vacancy."
 
Yoon reportedly had been open to the possibility of holding a convention to elect a new PPP head but changed his position after hearing Kweon's explanation.  
 
Kweon, a fourth-term lawmaker, is a former prosecutor who served as Yoon's chief of staff and the PPP's secretary general during his presidential campaign. He was elected the PPP floor leader in April.  
 
Yoon and Kweon went to dinner afterward with a few other lawmakers close to the president — PPP Reps. Lee Chul-gyu and Yoon Han-hong — according to party officials.  
 
On Monday, the PPP's Supreme Council officially decided that floor leader Kweon will serve as acting chairman to run the party for six months during Lee's suspension.  
 
The PPP concluded it couldn't hold a national convention to elect a new leader as the position is not considered vacant according to the party's constitution and regulations. Lee's two-year term as chairman runs through next June.
 
Some analysts said that Yoon eating dinner with close lawmakers amid internal turmoil within the PPP sends a political message in itself: tacit support for the party's leadership under Kweon.  
 
PPP Rep. Chang Je-won, also considered close to Yoon, was not included in the dinner Sunday, fueling speculation about Kweon's relationship with Chang.  
 
While Chang was said to have been busy Sunday, some party officials have pointed out that Chang and Kweon had differing views on the course of action to take after Lee's party suspension. Chang had reportedly been in favor of holding a convention, abandoning support for Lee. 
 
Kweon brushed off reports of discord with Chang and told reporters on the sideline of a forum in Seoul Wednesday, "There seems to be too much speculation about my relationship with Rep. Chang."
 
Lee, who has been low-key since the ethics committee decision, shared over Facebook Wednesday that he had hiked Mount Mudeung in Gwangju.  
 
He wrote, "I came to Mount Mudeung at the beginning of the year and said I must come again in the summer."
 
It is the first time Lee revealed his whereabouts in five days.  
 
Lee Jun-seok, the chairman of the People Power Party (PPP) who received a six-month suspension from the party over a sexual bribery scandal, shares a photo on Facebook Wednesday of his hike to Mount Mudeung in Gwangju. [FACEBOOK]

Lee Jun-seok, the chairman of the People Power Party (PPP) who received a six-month suspension from the party over a sexual bribery scandal, shares a photo on Facebook Wednesday of his hike to Mount Mudeung in Gwangju. [FACEBOOK]


BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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