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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 7)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:00 January 07, 2022

Beleaguered candidate
: PPP's Yoon should start over from scratch

Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), is facing the worst crisis since his November nomination. As part of his desperate efforts to get out of trouble, Yoon disbanded his bloated election committee and formed a streamlined campaign team Wednesday.

The measure is seen as a move to keep his distance from the conservative party's influence and stand on his own for the remainder of his race. In fact, Yoon's public support rate has plunged amid the party's factional infighting and power struggle. His continued controversial remarks and allegations about his family's misdeeds have also made many people, particularly centrist voters, shift their support to other candidates.

A growing number of people have been fed up with the PPP's internal strife. Its young leader, Lee Jun-seok, quit all of his positions in the campaign committee due to his discord with Yoon. Then, Kim Chong-in, the octogenarian committee chief and election czar, stepped down after clashing with Yoon. Yoon appointed four-term PPP lawmaker Rep. Kwon Young-se as his new campaign chief, nominating him as the party's new secretary general.

All those steps appeared to be inevitable for Yoon to take direct control over his campaign headquarters and rally party members behind him. Yet it is still unclear if such measures are sufficient to end the party's internal feud. On Thursday, PPP lawmakers proposed the impeachment of party chief Lee, blaming his conflicts with Yoon for the plunge in the candidate's support rate. It is regrettable that the party has continued to engage in infighting.

Yoon should take all responsibility for the current turmoil. He has failed to exercise his leadership properly to overcome internal discord and unite the party ahead of the March 9 election. Instead, he has soured his relations with PPP Chairman Lee and the party's campaign leader Kim.

Yoon cannot win the presidential election without ending the party's division. At stake is whether and how Yoon can bring all party members together to achieve a common goal. He has promised to start over from scratch to win back the hearts and minds of the people, particularly those in their 20s and 30s. However, his promise is easier said than done.

Now, Yoon should change himself to regain public trust. He has entered politics in protest against the Moon Jae-in administration's hypocrisy after stepping down as prosecutor general in March 2021. He had enjoyed a high level of public support thanks to his advocacy of fairness and common sense. But he has disappointed many of his supporters because of the PPP's internal disputes and his lack of leadership and political skills.

Most of all, Yoon should present a vision for the future and bring hope to the people by making better policy proposals. A latest poll showed that Yoon's support rate stood at 26 percent, far behind the 39.1 percent rate of Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). Yoon faces an uphill battle in reversing the trend with only two months left before the March poll.

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