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(News Focus) Suspicions of shamanism return to haunt Yoon

Politics 11:33 January 18, 2022

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- Main opposition presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol has come under renewed scrutiny for his alleged ties to shamanism, following reports that his wife claimed to be a "spiritual" person and that a shaman was deeply involved in directing his campaign.

Yoon of the conservative People Power Party (PPP) has previously come under fire for displaying the Chinese character for "king" on his palm, demonstrating what critics described as an utter disregard for the democratic system and a reliance on superstition.

In October, he was also accused of having ties to an anal acupuncture specialist, an allegation that was flatly dismissed by the candidate.

Yoon Suk-yeol (C), the presidential nominee of the main opposition People Power Party, presses his hands together at a Buddhist leaders forum at a Seoul hotel on Jan. 17, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The latest fodder emerged Sunday during MBC TV's airing of recordings of phone calls between Yoon's wife, Kim Keon-hee, and a reporter for a liberal YouTube channel, in which Kim claimed she was a "spiritual" person who preferred discussing the meaning of life with "dosas," or gurus, to visiting nightclubs.

Kim's remark received attention because she has previously been reported to have close ties to shamanism and introduced certain shamans to her husband.

Then, local newspaper Segye Times reported Monday that a shaman introduced by Kim has been exercising undue influence over Yoon's campaign while working as an adviser for a subunit named "Network Headquarters."

The PPP scrambled to dispel the allegations, saying the person in question is not a shaman but a Buddhist figure who has made several visits to the campaign but has never been appointed an adviser nor had any sway in the campaign.

On Tuesday, the party announced the dissolution of the Network Headquarters, saying the decision was made by Yoon.

Kim Keon-hee, the wife of People Power Party presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, holds a press conference regarding allegations she falsified her credentials on job applications at the party's headquarters in Seoul on Dec. 26, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

When asked to address the claims, Yoon expressed disbelief.

"I was introduced to him by a party official and we introduced ourselves, but I know him to be a monk," the candidate told reporters Monday. "I saw the article about (him being involved in) my schedule and public messaging, but it's a truly absurd story."

Yoon's opponents have likened his wife to Choi Soon-sil, a confidante of former conservative President Park Geun-hye, who was also accused of having ties to shamanism and running state affairs from behind the scenes.

Choi's actions ultimately prompted an investigation that led to Park's impeachment, removal from office and imprisonment. At the time, she was often compared to Grigori Rasputin, the infamous monk accused of playing a key role in the fall of Russia's Romanov dynasty.

Ruling Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung said he hopes the allegations raised in the Segye Times article are not true.

"In a 21st century modern society ..., we absolutely cannot allow a shaman to influence decisions," he told reporters Monday.

To Yoon, he said, "If such elements exist, I would like (him) to thoroughly remove them from now, strengthen his own abilities and use talented people to take actual steps to stabilize state affairs and ensure the people do not feel nervous."

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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