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(News Focus) The people who made Yoon Suk-yeol president

All News 04:34 March 10, 2022

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The people who contributed to Yoon Suk-yeol's election as president Wednesday range from his core group of confidants to campaign officials, lawmakers, former government officials, prosecutors and academics.

Yoon's closest confidants, known as "Yoonhaekgwan" -- an abbreviation of "Yoon Suk-yeol's core associates" -- are Reps. Kweon Seong-dong, Chang Je-won and Yoon Han-hong of the People Power Party (PPP).

Kweon, a four-term PPP lawmaker, has been friends with Yoon since childhood when the two met during visits to their respective families in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung.

In this file photo, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (L) of the main opposition People Power Party speaks with the party's presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol at the PPP headquarters in Seoul on Oct. 21, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

In this file photo, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (L) of the main opposition People Power Party speaks with the party's presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol at the PPP headquarters in Seoul on Oct. 21, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

He is known to have steered Yoon's campaign from the start and served as the candidate's chief of staff and the party's secretary-general before resigning early this year amid an internal feud.

Both born in 1960, Yoon and Kweon were prosecutors before they entered politics, although Kweon passed the bar in 1985, and Yoon passed in 1991 on his ninth try.

Chang, the second member of the coterie, was reportedly under consideration for Yoon's chief of staff after Yoon won the presidential nomination in November, but after facing an internal backlash, Chang announced his departure from the campaign and worked outside for Yoon's election.

Chang's importance was demonstrated with particular clarity when he brokered a merger deal between Yoon and then presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party just six days before the election.

Yoon Han-hong, the third member, worked for the president-elect's campaign both during and after the primaries.

In this file photo, Yoon Suk-yeol (L), the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, speaks with his campaign chief Rep. Kwon Young-se at a party event in Seoul on Jan. 26, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

In this file photo, Yoon Suk-yeol (L), the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, speaks with his campaign chief Rep. Kwon Young-se at a party event in Seoul on Jan. 26, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Working from within Yoon's campaign committee were Rep. Kwon Young-se, former Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong and PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok.

Kwon, a four-term PPP lawmaker, took the helm of Yoon's campaign in January amid massive internal turmoil and doubled as the party's secretary-general, earning praise for bringing stability and discipline to the team.

He came to be known as the "new Yoonhaekgwan."

Kwon was two years ahead of Yoon when they studied law at Seoul National University. In an interview with a local outlet last year, Kwon recalled that Yoon was a gregarious student who enjoyed debates.

"The way he talks and the way he says what's on his mind is the same then and now," he said when asked if Yoon had changed since entering politics, adding with a laugh that the president-elect has also maintained his walk and large physique.

Kwon has been credited with convincing Yoon to join the PPP last summer when Yoon was still weighing his options. The lawmaker is also a former prosecutor and a former South Korean ambassador to China.

In this file photo, Yoon Suk-yeol (R), the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, speaks with Rep. Chang Je-won at the party headquarters in Seoul on July 30, 2021. (Yonhap)

In this file photo, Yoon Suk-yeol (R), the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, speaks with Rep. Chang Je-won at the party headquarters in Seoul on July 30, 2021. (Yonhap)

Won, the former Jeju governor who competed with Yoon during the PPP primaries, was head of the campaign's policy team. Like Yoon, he studied law at Seoul National University and worked as a prosecutor.

Lee was at the center of the internal turmoil that led to the campaign's shakeup in January, but later made significant contributions to its success by coming up with unique ideas to promote the candidate via YouTube and other means.

The 36-year-old Harvard graduate has also been credited with widening the PPP's appeal to young and especially male voters.

Among the lawmakers considered close to the president-elect are Chung Jin-suk, a five-term PPP lawmaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, five-term Rep. Joo Ho-young and three-term Rep. Kim Tae-ho.

The three have been cited as potential picks for prime minister.

Chung hails from the central city of Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, the hometown of Yoon's father, and has advised the president-elect at key points along his short political career.

From among former government officials, Yoon received the help of Lee Suk-joon, a former minister for government policy coordination. Lee was also previously vice finance minister, leading to speculation he is the No. 1 candidate for deputy prime minister for the economy.

From among former members of the military brass, Yoon has relied on the advice of Kim Yong-hyeon, former chief of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Army chief of staff Kim Yong-woo, former Air Force chief of staff Lee Wang-keun and former Navy chief of staff Sim Seung-seob.

All four are among potential candidates for defense minister.

Yoon's foreign policy team boasts veteran diplomats Lee Do-hoon, Kim Hong-kyun and Hwang Joon-kook, all former point men for North Korea policy.

Of particular note is Lee, who was deeply involved in outgoing President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative for North Korea.

As a former prosecutor of 26 years, Yoon's connections within the prosecution run deep and wide, but some of his closest associates are known to be Han Dong-hoon, Seok Dong-hyeon and Joo Jin-woo.

Han investigated major cases with Yoon, including a massive corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and imprisonment of former President Park Geun-hye.

Seok went to university with Yoon and served as a special adviser on the campaign, while Joo led a team of legal advisers that defended the president-elect from negative campaigning, including allegations against his wife.

Finally, Yoon's supporters in academia have included his childhood friend Kim Sung-han, a Korea University professor who previously served as vice foreign minister and gave the president-elect "lessons" on foreign policy even before he launched his campaign.

Yun Duk-min, a chair professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and former head of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, advised the president-elect on foreign policy during the primaries.

hague@yna.co.kr
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