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Ruling party's Lee seeking breakthrough in presidential race

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Ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly on Yeouido, Seoul, Thursday. Joint Press Corps
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly on Yeouido, Seoul, Thursday. Joint Press Corps

Ruling party's Lee withdraws additional disaster relief fund proposal

By Jung Da-min

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung is seeking a breakthrough in the next presidential election slated for March as in recent opinion polls he has been falling behind his rival candidate Yoon Seok-youl of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP).

Support for Lee, which started to decrease after news broke in late August of a corruption-ridden highly lucrative land development speculation scandal, has been stagnating in recent weeks, while Yoon has been enjoying a rise in his popularity. Since he was selected as the main opposition party's presidential candidate, Nov. 5, about a month after Lee was named as the candidate of the ruling party, Yoon has led in many opinion polls, ahead of Lee.

As part of efforts to find a breakthrough and win back public support, Lee has withdrawn his proposal of providing another round of COVID-19 disaster relief funds to all people regardless of their financial status, an idea only backed by the DPK. Lee's proposal drew criticism from the opposition parties and the government which cited the country's fiscal stability, while public opinion in recent polls was also against Lee's idea.

"I will not insist on the target and method of providing support. If it is difficult to reach an agreement over my proposal of providing disaster relief funds to all people, we should hurry to provide support at least for small business owners and the self-employed," Lee wrote on Facebook, Thursday. "We do not have enough time to argue with each other over different ideas of helping people, when right now small business owners and the self-employed are facing a very difficult reality."

In late October, Lee, who has put forward a "basic" series of promises that include offering a universal basic income at the forefront of his election campaign, proposed providing another round of COVID-19 disaster relief funds to all people regardless of their financial status, in an effort to win public support.

But public opinion was not in favor of his idea, according to the polls. In a survey of 1,009 adults conducted early November by local pollster Korea Society Opinion Institute, 60.1 percent of respondents said they opposed the idea, while 32.8 percent supported it.

Yoon Seok-youl, left, presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, and Lee Jae-myung, candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea shake hands at an economic forum held at the Grand Walkerhill Seoul, Wednesday. Joint Press Corps
Yoon Seok-youl, left, presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, and Lee Jae-myung, candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea shake hands at an economic forum held at the Grand Walkerhill Seoul, Wednesday. Joint Press Corps

Lee claims special counsel investigations into scandals of rival candidates

The decrease in support for Lee is widely seen as the result of allegations that he was involved in the growing corruption scandal surrounding the land development project in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, when he was the mayor of the city. Specifically it is alleged that he granted preferential treatment to the private firm, Hwacheon Daeyu ― a relatively unknown company ― which led the project. Currently, the prosecution is investigating the case, but calls are growing for an independent special counsel to be appointed to look into it.

Lee had been saying that he would wait for the results of the prosecution's investigation, but has changed his stance, saying that he believes a special counsel should be appointed following an agreement between the rival parties.

"I hope that a special counsel investigation is launched so that this can disclose all the related issues to find out the truth, and ensure those involved in any wrongdoings are made to shoulder the responsibility," Lee said during a party meeting at the National Assembly, Thursday.

But Lee has also proposed another special counsel investigation into allegations that Yoon ― a former prosecutor general ― conducted a botched investigation into a corruption case involving Busan Mutual Savings Bank when he was the prosecutor in charge at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office. The bank allegedly gave special treatment to Hwacheon Daeyu in providing a 115.5 billion won ($94.17million) loan arranged through a broker. Yoon and the PPP have said Lee and the DPK are making a false accusation.



Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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