On September 20, the People Power Party leadership held a party welcome ceremony for external recruits at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul. From the left, former Namyangju Mayor Cho Gwang-han, former Korea Land and Housing Corporation President Kim Hyun-jun, former Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Police Commissioner Ko Ki-cheol, former SK Group Supex Pursuit Council Vice President Park Young-chun, and comedian Kim Young-min, who is active as a conservative YouTuber. In the back row are floor leader Yoon Jae-ok and representative Kim Ki-hyun. photo newsis
With the general election in April of next year approaching in about seven months, the ruling and opposition parties are beginning to struggle with various methods of calculating the general election. In particular, as criticism arose that ‘the ruling party is still unable to draw up a blueprint for the general election,’ the People Power Party appears to be speeding up its expansion, such as ‘selecting Yongsan’ and ‘recruiting talented people.’ Accordingly, the names of presidential staff preparing to run for office began to be mentioned, and some of them even specifically mentioned the region in which they were running, and the military fire campaign began.
However, there is still no clear traffic control in the areas where many of the staff members are running. At the same time, the criticism that “the party leadership is only looking at Yongsan and is unable to draw up a decent plan” is not going away either. In particular, what is increasing this criticism is the atmosphere of avoidance of running for office in so-called ‘difficult terrain’. As it is said that those who want to run for office in Yongsan are only preferring areas with a high probability of being elected, such as Yeongnam, there are also predictions that conflict with incumbent lawmakers will arise.
21 close battles in the metropolitan area where the winner was decided by 5,000 votes
Among former and current People Power Party lawmakers who have participated in several elections, the prevailing view is that the winner or loser of the general election in April next year will be determined in the metropolitan area. This means that how to overcome the ‘metropolitan area crisis theory’, which has already become a hot topic in the ruling party, will determine the overall victory or defeat. In the two recent general elections, the 20th and 21st general elections, progressive parties won more seats in Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon than conservative parties. In the 20th general election, progressive parties won 83 seats, while conservative parties only had 35 seats. In addition, in the 21st general election, the gap widened to 104 seats for progressive parties and 16 seats for conservative parties (excluding independents, the Justice Party is included in the progressive parties).
The total number of seats in the metropolitan area, including Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon, is 121. Analyzing the results of the 21st general election, there are a total of 21 constituencies in which the winning and second-place losers were decided by a margin of about 5,000 votes. Considering that the number of voters in each constituency is usually around 150,000 to 200,000, a difference of 5,000 votes can not be considered a large number. This means that in these closely contested constituencies, the victory or defeat between the ruling and opposition parties can change at any time, and the political landscape can change accordingly. If you look for areas where victory or defeat was decided by a margin of about 10,000 votes, the situation becomes more fluid.
In particular, in the last general election, there were constituencies with ultra-thin margins of less than 1,000 votes, such as Michuhol-gu, Dong-gu, Incheon, and Yongsan-gu, Seoul. In the case of Michuhol-gu, Dong-gu, Incheon, independent candidate Yoon Sang-hyun was elected with 46,493 votes, while Democratic Party candidate Nam Young-hee received 46,322 votes, a gap of only 171 votes. In Yongsan-gu, Seoul, there was a close race between Unified Future Party candidate Kwon Young-se and Democratic Party candidate Kang Tae-woong, who received 63,891 and 63,001 votes, respectively, with a difference of just 890 votes. In addition, in the Gangnam-gu area of Seoul, candidate Park Jin of the conservative United Future Party (51,762 votes) was elected, but he recorded only a 4,605-vote gap with Jeon Hyun-hee of the Democratic Party of Korea (47,157 votes), who ranked second, raising questions about whether unexpected variables will arise in Gangnam as well. It showed the possibility of not knowing.
President Yoon Seok-yeol is speaking at the People Power Party conference held in Incheon on August 28. photo newsis
How many people will run for office in busy Yongsan?
With such a difficult election approaching, Yongsan seems to be busier than the party. As the leadership of the People Power Party floated the rumor of ‘Yongsan’s departure,’ staff members who were looking at the general election began to move one by one. It is predicted that approximately 30 staff members, ranging from chief secretary to administrative officer, will run for office in this general election.
At the senior level of the President’s Office, Lee Jin-bok, Senior Secretary for Political Affairs, Seung-gyu Kang, Senior Secretary for Civil Society, and Senior Secretary for Public Relations Kim Eun-hye are mentioned as candidates. First, since Senior Secretary for Political Affairs Lee Jin-bok served three terms in Dongrae-gu, Busan, there is a possibility of him running again or running in another district of Busan. However, it is known that he has not yet decided to run for office. According to local sources, Kang Seung-gyu, senior secretary for civil society, submitted his resignation in early November, when the National Assembly audit ends, and reportedly decided to run for Hongseong and Yesan in South Chungcheong Province.
Kim Eun-hye, senior public relations official who was elected in Bundang-gap, Gyeonggi Province, during the 21st general election, ran for Gyeonggi governor in the last local election and lost her constituency to People Power Party lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo. Currently, there are rumors in Bundang Gap that Park Min-sik can run for Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. As the Bundang Gap situation is complicated, Senior Kim Eun-hye is expected to run for office in another region of the metropolitan area.
In Yongsan, there are quite a few candidates who have already stepped forward as starters. Lee Dong-seok, former administrative officer of the Presidential Secretariat (Chungju, North Chungcheong Province) and Lee Seung-hwan, former administrator of the Office of the Senior Secretary to the President for Political Affairs (Jungnang-eul, Seoul), have virtually begun their general election campaign, while Choi Ji-woo, former administrative officer of the Legal Secretary’s Office, who is known to have recently resigned, is in Jecheon and Danyang, North Chungcheong Province, and Seo Seung-woo, former administrative officer of the Presidential Autonomous Administration, is in Jecheon and Danyang, North Chungcheong Province. The secretary is expected to vote for the Cheongju petition in North Chungcheong Province.
In addition, legal secretary Joo Jin-woo is mentioned to run for Suyeong-gu, Busan, and Kim In-gyu, administrator of the Senior Secretary to the President for Political Affairs, is mentioned to run for Busan’s Seo-gu-dong district. In the Office of the Senior Secretary to the Civil Society, it is mentioned that Administrator Kim Dae-nam is running for Gap-gu in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, Administrator Lee Chang-jin is running for Yeonje in Busan, and Administrator Yeo Myeong is running for Dongdaemun-gap in Seoul. In addition, there are rumors that Bae Cheol-soon, an administrator in the Office of the Senior Secretary to the President for Political Affairs, is running for office in Uichang, Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, and Jo Ji-yeon, an administrator in the Office of the Senior Secretary to the President for Government Affairs, is rumored to be running in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province.
The problem is that while there are expectations for the advancement of the Yongsan staff, many of whom are new faces, there are also growing concerns that their candidacy will lead to conflict within the party. Most of the regions where they are expected to run are either strongly conservative, such as PK (Busan, Gyeongnam) and TK (Daegu, Gyeongbuk), or are conservative strongholds where active People Power Party members are currently seated, so fierce internal competition is inevitable. There has already been an internal backlash within the party over whether the leadership has requested a ‘list of candidates’ from Yongsan, and the leadership is working hard to extinguish it.
Conflict with active duty is inevitable due to rumor of Yongsan departure
If the selection of Yongsan staff becomes a reality, the prevailing view is that it will be difficult to avoid internal conflict in the future nomination process. There is also a pessimistic outlook from some in the party, saying, “It will not be a strategic arrangement to defend seats in the metropolitan area, but will just be a reshuffling procedure based on profit.” In relation to this, Lee Jun-seok, former representative of the People Power Party, said in a radio broadcast on September 20th, “In fact, People Power Party members are seriously disturbed after seeing this (the rumor of Yongsan staff being selected),” and “People coming down from the President’s office are saying, ‘That Honam. “There are no people who say, ‘I will run for office.’” Former People Power Party lawmaker Yoo Seung-min also said in a radio broadcast on September 18, “Are we going to send a large number of the president’s closest aides to the general election to hold it? He also pointed out, “I don’t think it can be a winning strategy from the People Power Party’s perspective, especially in the metropolitan area.”
There is also a negative view as to whether the currently discussed candidacy of the Yongsan staff can actually become a reality. This is because President Yoon Seok-yeol’s approval rating can be a key criterion as the Yongsan staff are stepping forward on the back of Yoon Shim. If President Yoon’s approval rating remains in the 30% range as it is now, it will be difficult for Yongsan’s staff to run for office en masse.
This observation is also supported by past cases. During the last Moon Jae-in administration, 30 Blue House officials ran in the 21st general election. Among them, 19 people earned the National Assembly member badge. During the 21st general election held in 2020, the fourth year of the Moon Jae-in administration, President Moon’s approval rating reached 50-60%. On the other hand, in the case of the 20th general election held during the Park Geun-hye administration, there was a lot of talk that dozens of people would be selected from the Blue House, but in reality, only two staff members appeared in the general election, including Blue House Spokesperson Min Kyung-wook and Park Jong-joon, Deputy Director of the Security Office. There was an analysis that the approval rating of former President Park, who once boasted a solid approval rating, fell to the 30% range in 2016 when the 20th general election was held, and the process of running for office by her aides stopped.
‘No. 1 recruit’ causing controversy
Meanwhile, CEO Kim Ki-hyun held a welcoming ceremony for external talent on September 20th and started the so-called ‘creation of a big tent.’ We recruited six people, including figures from the opposition party, including Rep. Cho Jung-hoon, a former member of the Democratic Party of Korea, former Namyangju Mayor Cho Kwang-han, and Kim Hyun-jun, former president of LH, who served as president of the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) under the Moon Jae-in administration. However, talent recruitment, which was effectively CEO Kim’s first project, was met with noise from the start. This is because opinions are divided about Rep. Jo Jeong-hoon, who entered the National Assembly as a proportional party of the Democratic Party, but opposed merger with the Democratic Party and went through the expelling process to return to his original party.
Regarding the recruitment of Rep. Cho, Kim Jae-won, a member of the People Power Party Supreme Council, said in a radio broadcast on September 20, “It would be nice if it could serve as an opportunity to recruit many and diverse people, but it is not good to just tout (Rep. Cho Jeong-hoon) as the ‘No. 1 recruit.’ “I don’t think so,” he said, showing signs of discomfort. People Power Party lawmaker Heo Eun-ah also said on her Facebook page, “I just hope that our party leadership will show those with different opinions within the party the vast generosity that they embrace even from the Democratic Party.” “I also respectfully advise Rep. Jo Jeong-hoon. He also advised, “Our politics need to be a little more shameless.”
In the past, when general elections were held, each political party would compete to recruit the best talent. The ‘No. 1 recruit’ was often evaluated as a symbolic figure who showed the party’s most important policies or future direction. During the 21st general election, the Democratic Party
‘Choi Hye-young’, a disabled woman in her 40s, was revealed as the ‘No. 1 recruit.’ Ms. Choi, who was her ballerina, was diagnosed with quadriplegia and spinal cord disability in an unexpected accident, but she became Korea’s first female spinal cord disabled person with a doctorate in rehabilitation, and she is currently active in law as a proportional representative member of the Democratic Party of Korea. At the time, the Democratic Party put the pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare policies for women with disabilities at the forefront and expressed the sincerity of policies related to the disabled that were only introduced during elections.
It is in this context that internal concerns are growing about the direction the party will show through Rep. Cho, whom Representative Kim Ki-hyun nominated as the first talent to be recruited. In particular, as word spread that Rep. Cho was preparing to run for Mapo-gap, it became like pouring cold water on Rep. Lee Yong-ho (Imsil-Sunchang, Namwon, Jeollabuk-do) and Rep. Seung-jae Choi (proportional representative), who had already shown signs of running for Mapo-gap within the party.
The command tower and sketch are not visible.
Even ahead of a major election that is meant to be a mid-term evaluation of the government, there is still criticism that there is no leadership in the ruling party drawing up a general election plan. People Power Party lawmaker Sang-Hyun Yoon, who has repeatedly raised the theory of a ‘metropolitan area crisis’, has argued to the effect that ‘the party’s biggest crisis is the leadership’s lack of understanding of the metropolitan area.’ Looking at the rumors of Yongsan, which has many people wishing to run for office in the Yeongnam region, and the recruitment of talent by Representative Kim Ki-hyun, which has caused controversy, not only do the party leadership not yet feel the urgency of the crisis in the metropolitan area, but they are also negative about whether they will be able to devise effective measures to defend the metropolitan area in the future.
Some in the ruling party also point out that the appointment of players for election performances or to protect the metropolitan area should have already been done due to timing. A former member of the People Power Party who ran the elections in the metropolitan area said, “If you look at past cases, about 7 months before the general election, a newcomer with star quality should have already started to stir up public opinion and shift votes,” and added, “It is too late to prepare for next year’s general election at the latest.” and criticized.
There is also a view that there is a shortage of players as too many former members of the National Assembly who have built up a local base in the metropolitan area have run for office in the elections held after the inauguration of the Yoon administration or have moved to positions as heads of specific organizations. Representative examples include Yongin Mayor Lee Sang-il, who was a member of the National Assembly in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, and Ham Jin-gyu, President of Korea Expressway Corporation, who was a member of the National Assembly in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province. It is said that it is not easy to find replacements for them in the metropolitan area elections where one seat is missing.
In addition, the president’s sluggish approval rating is a problem that most ruling party officials are concerned about. Since the president’s approval rating must be at least 40% or higher to act as a driving force in the general election, voices are growing that the party leadership needs a strategy to increase the president’s approval rating in the future. In fact, many analyzes say that next year’s general election will inevitably be the most important political battle for President Yoon himself. This is because if the ruling party does not win the general election, there is a possibility that a lame duck period will begin immediately. Since there are no elections to be held for the remainder of the presidential term after the general election, the results of the general election are inevitably linked to the presidential position. Defeat in the general election is expected to be a trigger for the government and ruling party to join forces, including the early emergence of the next candidate.
Impact of passing the motion to arrest Lee Jae-myung
In this situation, the future of Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, is expected to play a role in various variables. On September 21st, as the National Assembly passed a motion to arrest Representative Lee, Representative Lee was placed at a crossroads for arrest. On this day, the motion to arrest Representative Lee was passed with 149 in favor, 136 against, 6 abstentions, and 4 invalid votes. It appears that 29 people from the Democratic Party voted to leave. Although this is a matter that will be finally decided after the substantive warrant review of Representative Lee, which will be conducted in the future, the prevailing opinion within and outside of the political world is that based on the government’s stance to date, there is a high possibility that Representative Lee will be arrested.
However, since Representative Lee has the right to nomination until he steps down from his position as party leader, the possibility of ‘nomination in prison’ becoming a reality cannot be ruled out. If this happens, conflict between factions and the departure of non-partisans may be triggered within the Democratic Party, and the image of Representative Lee as a one-man system may be further strengthened. This only solidifies the ‘bulletproof’ image of the Democratic Party.
In addition, there are predictions that the division in the party will become more visible, as Representative Lee’s strong supporters, the ‘dog daughters’, had predicted a search for the lawmakers who voted for Representative Lee’s arrest prior to voting on the motion to arrest Representative Lee. A leading member of the non-partisan group who recently met with a reporter said, “I am not afraid of threats from bastards or primary elections, and I will not hesitate to run as an independent candidate if the situation arises.” He also cautiously hinted at the possibility of a split, saying, “If the pro-Myung faction wields the right to nomination, the party may split into two.” .
First of all, there are many analyzes that the predictions regarding the Democratic Party’s internal conflict will be positive for the People Power Party. This is because it is difficult to expect the innovation and reform required of the Democratic Party if it falls into internal conflict. If long and bitter internal strife continues within the Democratic Party, preparations for the general election are bound to be disrupted.
But the opposite situation is also possible. If Representative Lee voluntarily steps down from his position and distributes nomination rights rationally, the Democratic Party may enter the path of innovation and new leadership. If this happens, the People Power Party will have to fight against the real ‘Democratic Party without Lee Jae-myung’ in next year’s general election.
Election experts point out that the final variable in the general election, which is seven months away, is ‘wind’. In particular, previous elections in the metropolitan area have been largely influenced by last-minute events. All possibilities are still open as to what winds will blow in this general election cycle, which is moving towards an intense conflict structure.
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