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(LEAD) PPP insists on holding Yoon-Lee debate first before expanded debate

Politics 14:54 January 27, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, Democratic Party's rejection; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) insisted Thursday on holding a one-on-one debate first between its presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and ruling Democratic Party (DP) candidate Lee Jae-myung before an expanded debate involving all four main contenders.

The DP immediately rejected the PPP's proposal, making it unlikely for a presidential TV debate to take place during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday that runs through Wednesday.

Rep. Sung Il-jong, the PPP's lead negotiator for arranging TV debates, made the one-on-one debate offer, a day after a court stopped the country's three major broadcasters from hosting a two-way debate between Lee and Yoon.

In this file photo, Yoon Suk-yeol (L), the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, and Lee Jae-myung, the candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, attend an event for small merchants in Seoul on Jan. 18, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

"Let's have a bilateral debate on Jan. 31 at the National Assembly or at a third-party site," he said.

"The court's injunction reflects the large influence a debate hosted by broadcasters has on the election, but we believe it is fine to hold a debate that is not hosted by broadcasters and agreed upon by the two sides," he added.

Sung said the law mandates three debates involving all the main contenders, and arranging another four-way debate would only increase their frequency.

His remark came after the broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and SBS -- offered to host a four-way debate involving Lee, Yoon, Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party and Sim Sang-jeung of the minor progressive Justice Party on Jan. 31 or Feb. 3.

The DP and PPP previously sought a one-on-one TV debate on Sunday or Monday, but the plan was foiled by the successful injunction requests of Ahn and Sim.

Sung said his party is willing to discuss the details of the proposed four-way debate with the other parties at a later date.

"With a four-way debate, there are the three rounds that are mandated by law, so the people will have the opportunity and time to make their judgments," he said. "With a bilateral debate, the people are curious but it's been stopped, so if it's held not by the broadcasters but upon agreement between the two parties, the people will be able to see what they want to see."

The DP all but rejected the idea.

"We hope Yoon Suk-yeol will not ignore the court's ruling and first announce his participation in the four-way TV debate that is close to fruition," the DP's TV debate team said in a press release.

"We hope the four-way debate will be held at the earliest date on Jan. 31," it said, adding that if necessary, it is willing to hold a bilateral debate simultaneously but not in place of the expanded format.


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