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DPK candidate Lee struggling to gain united support from party

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Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, center, pays his respect during the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju, Friday. Yonhap
Democratic Party of Korea presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, center, pays his respect during the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju, Friday. Yonhap

By Nam Hyun-woo

Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung is struggling to gain united support from his own party, which is still divided in the aftermath of the party's primary.

Lee is striving to win the endorsement of Lee Nak-yon, a former prime minister who was his main rival during the primary. Meeting his main rival in person and getting his support officially is deemed customary before the candidate meets President Moon Jae-in and is recognized as his successor, but the former prime minister is yet to make a public appearance, casting doubt on the ruling DPK's unity before the presidential election.

As of Friday, Lee Nak-yon had not been seen since his defeat in the DPK primary, Oct. 10. Though Lee uploaded a critical posting about the opposition party candidate on Friday, he refrained from dropping hints about a meeting between him and Governor Lee.

A day earlier, a number of news outlets reported that Lee Jae-myung had phoned the former prime minister and they shared their thoughts on the presidential election.

However, the two sides had different interpretations of the call. The candidate's camp said former Prime Minister Lee promised his "full support" for Governor Lee, while the former prime minister's aides said "they only shared their opinions on mutual consultations to recreate the (DPK) administration."

The two Lees exchanged fierce criticism of each other during the primary. After Lee Jae-myung won more than 50 percent of the votes in polls in the primary and became the party's single candidate, Lee Nak-yon reluctantly accepted the result, but his supporters filed for an injunction to nullify it with the Seoul Southern District Court, Oct. 14, and are awaiting a decision.

Democratic Party of Korea presidential contender Lee Jae-myung, left, walks past former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, right, during a round of the party's primaries in Gwangju, in this Sept. 25 photo. Joint Press Corps
Democratic Party of Korea presidential contender Lee Jae-myung, left, walks past former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, right, during a round of the party's primaries in Gwangju, in this Sept. 25 photo. Joint Press Corps

For Gov. Lee, gaining the former prime minister's support is a crucial step in his presidential campaign, as the latter is widely described to be in a fringe group of the party whose majority of lawmakers are those loyal to President Moon.

Lee has been widely viewed as being among the anti-Moon faction in the party, due to his fierce battle with the President during the 2017 primaries. Due to this, support from Lee Nak-yon, who has served as a past DPK chairman and proclaimed himself as Moon's "successor" after being his first prime minister, will give Lee Jae-myun the image of someone able to overcome the conflicts of the primary and embrace party members who have different political ideas.

A meeting between the two Lees is seen as a required step before Governor Lee's meeting with Moon, as without it questions could be raised regarding his legitimacy as the party's candidate.

According to sources at the administration, Lee Jae-myung initially planned to visit Cheong Wa Dae last week, but it became difficult as the presidential office said resolving conflict within the party and forming "one team" should come first.

Since Moon is scheduled to attend the Group of 20 summit in Italy, and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland, later this month, Lee may have to meet Moon in November. This meeting could be seen as relatively belated, compared to previous cases.

In 2002, President Kim Dae-jung met ruling party candidate Roh Moo-hyun just two days after the primaries. In 2012, President Lee Myung-bak met Park Geun-hye 13 days after she was nominated as the ruling Saenuri Party candidate.


Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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