By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who has remained largely in seclusion after resigning in March, is seen as making earnest preparations to enter politics, expanding contact with members of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) wooing him to run as a conservative candidate in next year's presidential race.
News of Yoon's contact with several PPP members made headlines this week, beginning with Monday's news of his meeting with Rep. Kweon Seong-dong in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on May 29. Yoon was in town visiting relatives in the city where Kweon's constituency is located.
Kwon and Yoon, who were also former childhood friends, met at a restaurant at the request of the former prosecutor and were accompanied by Yoon's old acquaintances in the city. On Tuesday, Kweon stated that Yoon essentially expressed his willingness to run for president.
"(Yoon) said in such a nuance that he will take the lead in seeking a change of government by giving all his heart and soul, and body and spirit," the lawmaker said in a KBS radio interview.
Kweon said Yoon did not explicitly express his intention to join the PPP but nonetheless predicted that the former prosecutor will eventually become a member of the main opposition.
"It is a sign that he will ultimately join the PPP," Kweon said, noting that otherwise there would be no reason for Yoon to voluntarily contact him in the first place.
Following the news of the Gangneung meeting, other PPP members confessed that they had met or spoken with Yoon in private. Rep. Chung Jin-suk also announced this week that he shared a drink with Yoon on May 26 and that he asked the former prosecutor to become a PPP member.
"I relayed my desire that Yoon joins the PPP while making an official announcement to enter politics," Chung said. Although Yoon did not offer a definite answer, according to Chung, he "exhibited a demeanor of a close and attentive listener."
It was also later revealed that Yoon met with Rep. Yoon Hee-suk, a former economist and one of the PPP's prominent freshman legislators, and also spoke over the phone with PPP veteran Reps. Yoo Sang-bum and Chang Je-won. According to Yoo and Chang, Yoon suggested that he has decided to enter politics as a member of the main opposition party.
Yoon has emerged as one of two leading potential presidential candidates, according to various opinion polls, though he has yet to officially declare his intent to run.
He has refrained from making public appearances or statements after resigning in March, four months before his two-year tenure was set to end, in apparent protest against President Moon Jae-in's drive to reform the prosecution service.
Yoon has, however, connected with a series of experts in various fields and industries while in retirement, having met Yoo Hyun-joon, a professor of architecture at Seoul's Hongik University, as of late to reportedly share views on the state of the current skyrocketing real estate market.
As Yoon expands connections with the PPP, observations that Yoon has now begun serious preparations for a presidential run are increasingly growing. The former prosecutor is also reportedly planning on forming a small team to support his political endeavors.
As of now, with no official support group of political funds, chances of Yoon joining the PPP appears more and more likely, with predictions floating that he could sign up as an official party member sometime between July and late August, after the PPP holds a convention to pick its new leadership.
While its members are trying tirelessly to court Yoon, the PPP at the same time is also trying to keep a straight face, in a sign that the party is not willing to simply cede all of its initiative in order to invite the former prosecutor general.
"We have an abundance in exemplary candidates also within the party," PPP spokesperson Rep. Kang Min-kuk said. He added that Yoon was "one of various presidential hopefuls and that the party does not operate with him at the center."
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