DP lawmakers start distancing themselves from leader Lee
Chairman Lee Jae-myung grip on the Democratic Party (DP) appears to be weakening after an investigation of the Daejang-dong corruption scandal ensnared people close to him.
At least six DP lawmakers who were previously close to Lee are known to have distanced themselves from the DP chairman because of the scandal or other issues.
Lawmakers who have signaled their disenchantment with the DP leader include party secretary-general Kim Young-jin, Cho Eung-cheon, Chun Jae-soo, Lee Won-wook, Kang Hoon-sik and Song Gab-seok.
Rep. Cho Eung-cheon, who was in the same class as Lee at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, said in a Monday radio interview that “it is time for Chairman Lee to at least express regret” over the mounting list of suspects close to the DP leader who have been arrested in the Daejang-dong scandal.
Two of Lee’s aides and key DP figures Jeong Jin-sang and Kim Yong were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of committing corruption and bribery in the case.
“There is now no way of knowing if Lee really has nothing to do with Daejang-dong allegations,” Cho said, while adding that he hopes that Lee was not directly involved in the scandal.
The same day, lawyer Nam Wook, a key figure in the scandal, said he heard Lee held a hidden stake from one of the investors in the project.
Prosecutors are investigating 57.7 billion won ($48.3 million) in profit raked in by Hwacheon Daeyu, a previously obscure asset management company, and its Cheonhwa Dongin affiliates, from its 1 percent stake, or investment of 49.95 million won, in a 2015 real estate development project in the Daejang-dong area of Seongnam, Gyeonggi, as well as suspicions about the companies’ true ownership.
Nam said he had known since February 2015 that Cheonhwa Dongin No. 1 “belonged to” the Seongnam mayor’s office, then occupied by DP leader Lee, and that he heard this from Kim Man-bae, the owner of Hwacheon Daeyu.
One DP lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity to the JoongAng Ilbo said that the number of lawmakers who had shifted from actively supporting Lee to avoiding an association with him has grown because “the possibility he might face prosecution has become harder to ignore.”
He also said that Lee had alienated party members because he “placed associates and allies from his Seongnam and Gyeonggi days in key positions, instead of courting broader support.”
Still others have criticized Lee’s insistence on remaining active in national politics and the party’s leadership despite his loss in last March’s presidential election and the party’s wipeout in June local government elections.
Rep. Lee Won-wook, who served as an aide to Lee during his successful 2018 campaign for the Gyeonggi governor’s office, openly opposed Lee’s decision to stand in a by-election for Incheon’s Gyeyang District B constituency in the National Assembly only a few months after he lost his presidential bid.
In a telephone call with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, Rep. Lee said he opposed Lee Jae-myung’s bid for a parliamentary seat because “it would only serve to enable his takeover of the party,” which added to his doubts about “whether he is the kind of person fit to lead the country.”
Rep. Kang Hoon-sik, who served in Lee’s presidential campaign as a strategy manager, actually ran in the August DP’s leadership race against Lee, arguing that the party needed “generational turnover.”
In a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Kang said he was invited by Lee to his home in Seongnam after he lost the presidential race, but said he did not take up the invitation.
“I figured it would be about running for the party leadership,” Kang said, adding, “After I avoided him repeatedly, he stopped contacting me.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]