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(LEAD) PPP floor leader apologizes over text conversation with president

All News 11:18 July 27, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS PPP floor leader, main opposition party's remarks)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- The acting chairman of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) has apologized after a text conversation he had with President Yoon Suk-yeol was caught on camera, in which Yoon was seen backbiting about suspended party chief Lee Jun-seok.

PPP floor leader Kweon Seong-dong took over as acting leader of the party early this month after the party's ethics committee suspended Lee's party membership for six months over allegations of sexual bribery and a cover-up.

On Tuesday, Kweon was caught on press cameras writing a text message to Yoon on his mobile phone. The screen also showed earlier messages from Yoon saying he was happy with the change in the party's leadership and took a swipe at Lee.

"Our party is doing a good job. We should keep this up," Yoon wrote in the messages sent via Telegram. "Since the replacement of the party chair who used to shoot upon ourselves, our party has become different."

Yoon was seen criticizing Lee for focusing on an internal fight rather than attacking the opposition party.

Kweon said in response, "We will uphold your wish, and show unity between the party and the government."

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, acting chair and floor leader of the People Power Party, exchanges a text message during an interpellation session at the National Assembly on July 26, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Hours later, Kweon issued an apology, saying he would take full responsibility over the incident.

"It is entirely my fault that a personal conversation with the president was revealed due to my carelessness and caused misunderstanding," he said in a Facebook post. "Regardless of the reason, I apologize to fellow party members and the people for causing concern."

On Wednesday, Kweon apologized again but stressed the importance of privacy.

"Private texts were revealed against my will," Kwon told reporters, declining to answer questions on the matter. "My privacy should also be protected."

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) called the revelations "very shocking" and criticized Yoon for intervening in party politics.

"It is not desirable for the president to get deeply involved in the PPP's power struggle," Rep. Woo Sang-ho, interim leader of the DP, told a party meeting.

"Is the president of the Republic of Korea so free as to send this kind of message ... elated after getting rid of the ruling party's chairman?" Woo said. "The people's livelihoods and economy are getting worse because the president pays attention to an issue like this."

Lee, the suspended PPP leader, has claimed that his suspension was the result of political machinations engineered by President Yoon's core associates, often dubbed "Yoonhaekgwan," including Kweon. He has not made any comment on the issue.

"I have long said that Lee's removal was the joint work of President Yoon and Yoonhaekgwan, and this has been confirmed to be true," Woo said.


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