Kweon resigns as acting chairman of the People Power Party
Rep. Kweon Seong-dong announced Sunday he will step down as acting chairman of the People Power Party (PPP) to take responsibility for the leadership crisis within the party.
Kweon, the PPP's floor leader and a fourth-term lawmaker, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon, "The party is facing a grave crisis. It has failed to uphold the wishes of the people. As the acting chairman of the party, I feel deeply responsible."
Kweon has served as the PPP's acting chief for the past 23 days since the party's young chairman, Lee Jun-seok, was suspended from his job for six months in early July over sexual bribery allegations.
Internal turmoil and discontent with the way Kweon was running the party prompted three lawmakers to quit the PPP's Supreme Council in the past several days.
It was expected that if enough members of the PPP Supreme Council stepped down, the party will switch to an emergency steering committee system rather than the one-person leadership of Kweon, Yoon's close confident often at the forefront of internal feuds and controversy.
Saying he respects the resignations of the council members, Kweon wrote in the Facebook post, "I will give up my role as the acting chairman" and promised to "make every effort to swiftly make the transition to an emergency steering committee system."
On Friday, PPP Rep. Bae Hyun-jin, a first-term lawmaker who previously served as a spokesperson for President-elect Yoon during the transitional period, quit the Supreme Council.
She told reporters after revealing her resignation at the council's meeting earlier that day, the party has "failed to live up to people's expectations" in the past 80 days since the inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol.
"I thought it's time to show that I personally take responsibility as a leadership member," said Bae.
On Sunday, PPP Rep. Cho Su-jin, another first-term lawmaker, also said she will quit as a council member to take responsibility for public sentiment demanding change from the party.
"I am stepping down as Supreme Council member to take responsibility for the stern warning of the public sentiment calling for awakening and change," Cho said.
She said the PPP and the presidential office is in need of a "complete overhaul."
During a press conference, Cho called for close aides to Yoon to "deeply reflect on the root cause of the overall crisis" and urged them to "be proud that you have achieved a change of government but please step down" as practical next measures forward.
Later Friday, PPP Rep. Yoon Young-seok, a third-term lawmaker, also declared he will resign as a Supreme Council member.
He apologized to the public in a press release and said he felt "great shame and regret" that the PPP was not fulfilling its role amid an economic crisis and surging Covid-19 infections.
At least half of the nine-member Supreme Council must quit for the council to be dissolved.
Kweon's resignation as acting chairman followed mounting discontent within his party, torn by factionalism and declining public approval for the PPP and the president.
Kweon was especially criticized after his leaked private texts with President Yoon Suk-yeol taking a jab at suspended chief Lee caused great embarrassment to the party.
On Tuesday, media exposed photographs showing Kweon during a National Assembly session checking on his smartphone a message over the Telegram instant messaging app from Yoon that read, "Our party has become different since the replacement of the chairman who shot us in the foot," in reference to Lee.
It is unheard of for a president's private message to be exposed in such a matter, and Kweon apologized immediately, saying he will take responsibility.
The message also ran counter to Yoon's policy that he will not intervene in party affairs.
Kweon also recently received flak after saying he had pressured PPP Rep. Chang Je-won, a chief of staff to Yoon during the transition period, to have an individual from Gangneung in Gangwon, his constituency, hired to the presidential office as an administrative official. This individual was later was revealed to be a son of one of Yoon's acquaintances.
Kweon especially angered youths after he vented his frustrations that the staffer was hired as a Grade 9 civil servant, not a higher-ranking Grade 7 official, saying that a lowest-level official's salary is not sufficient to cover living costs in Seoul for people moving to the capital. He later apologized for the inconsiderate remarks.
Lee in turn has been on a hiatus after the PPP's ethics committee suspended his party membership on July 8 over allegations that he had accepted sexual services as a bribe from a businessman in 2013 and tried to cover it up. He has blamed party members from the pro-Yoon faction for trying to oust him.
He has been traveling across the country to meet with local party members and in a Facebook post Sunday criticized Reps. Bae and Cho, writing that the lawmakers' "priorities are not price stability, institutional reform or political innovation."
He then compared them to the "Nazgul" and "Gollum," antagonists from the J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]