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[Newsmaker] Yoon unlikely to join opposition party soon

July 13, 2021 - 16:21 By Kim So-hyun
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (L) and former top auditor Choe Jae-hyeong (R) (Yonhap)
Ex-chief prosecutor and presidential contender Yoon Seok-youl appears more focused on bringing together centrists than joining the main opposition People Power Party, while former chief state auditor Choe Jae-hyeong is likely to join the party as another presidential hopeful, according to figures in close contact with the two men.

Political critic Chin Jung-kwon said he met with Yoon last week and it seemed like the former prosecutor general “intends to stay outside the PPP for a while.”

“It didn’t look like he intends to join the PPP anytime soon,” Chin said in a radio interview Monday evening.

“I think he plans to bring centrists together outside (the PPP), and unify his candidacy with (that of) a PPP candidate in the end.”

They discussed Yoon’s relations with the PPP and philosophical issues, and Yoon said his idea of “freedom” was “a bit different in texture from the PPP’s market fundamentalism or libertarianism,” according to Chin.

“When I pointed out that his written declaration of presidential bid smelled more of the old conservative rather than being forward looking, he said he thought the same when he read it later. He seemed cautious that his message might give out the wrong impression that he will return to the old conservative (frame),” Chin said.

Chin added, however, that Yoon said he says completely different things when he visits experts, and that he will have to make all decisions on his own.

As for Choe, his aide and former opposition lawmaker Kim Young-woo said the ex-chief of the Board of Audit and Inspection is thinking over joining the PPP.

Choe “clearly thinks that representative democracy is difficult without party politics” Kim said in a radio interview Tuesday morning.

“He is considering (joining the People Power Party) as part of efforts to do better.”

Kim added that he spoke with opposition leader Lee Jun-seok, and Rep. Kwon Young-se, who heads the People Power Party’s committee for external cooperation, several times over the phone.

About criticism that it was inappropriate for a BAI chief, who should be politically neutral, to enter politics right after he steps down, Kim said the Moon Jae-in administration ruined that political neutrality first by pressuring the BAI over its audit of the government’s decision to shut down the country’s second-oldest nuclear reactor earlier than scheduled.

Kim said he is not sure if the presidential contenders currently running 1st and 2nd in public polls -- Yoon and Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung -- can “heal the country which is broken.”

Yoo In-tae, former secretary general of the National Assembly and ex-legislator of the ruling Democratic Party, on the other hand, said on Tuesday that Choe lacked the cause to jump into politics because he “merely had a bit of friction” with Moon’s office for refusing its request to put someone on the audit committee.

Yoo said on a radio show that people understand Yoon’s presidential bid because they all watched his long conflict with the former Park Geun-hye administration and the incumbent administration, but he questioned whether Choe was persecuted so much that he had to quit as BAI chief in the midst of his term.