Go to contents

First TV debate of ruling party convention marred with controversy over ‘First Lady’s text messages’

First TV debate of ruling party convention marred with controversy over ‘First Lady’s text messages’

Posted July. 10, 2024 07:47,   

Updated July. 10, 2024 07:47


Ahead of the upcoming convention for the main ruling People Power Party slated for the 23rd of July, candidates engaged in their first televised debate yesterday. The four contenders clashed over a text message exchange involving Han Dong-hoon, who served as the party's emergency response committee chief in January when Kim Keon-hee, the wife of President Yoon Suk-yeol, sent him several messages to which he did not respond. The dispute over the "first lady's texts" escalated during the first joint campaign rally on the previous day. Candidates accused one another, with Mr. Han labeling it “a personal attack and a slanderous internal shooting," while Won Hee-ryong criticized the other candidate as someone who “does not understand team identity.”

Despite the controversy over Kim's five messages sent via Telegram to Han in January being made public, the debate has only intensified. “I could apologize tens of thousands of times if that helps solve the problem,” Kim said, expressing her reluctance to make such a decision due to concerns about the sincerity of her apology and its potential of escalating into a matter of responsibility. “Even so,” she mentioned, “if the party decides, I will apologize." In response, Han's camp claimed that her message implied her reluctance to apologize, while other candidates argued it was incomprehensible for Han to have ignored the party's decision to apologize. They are making two starkly different interpretations, refusing to step back.

Among Kim's messages was a proposal for a call or meeting with President Yoon to resolve any discomfort related to issues concerning the president and her special prosecutor. There is another message where Kim refers to Han as a 'comrade', denying the rumor about her mobilizing a legion of internet trolls to slander him. The opposition party, however, demanded clarification on the actual nature of the alleged trolling, criticizing it as a 'manipulation of state affairs' and 'intervention in party affairs.' The controversy over Kim's messages has added pressure to the already faltering ruling party since the April 10 general election defeat.

The upcoming party convention, the first in three months since their defeat in the April 10 general elections, is not expected to serve as an opportunity for discussions on party renewal or vision; instead, it will likely be consumed by a fierce battle over accusations of betrayal and controversies surrounding the ‘first lady's texts.’ Some voices within the party have expressed concerns about these ‘self-harming behaviors,’ yet the candidates appear undeterred. With such internal strife, whoever becomes the party leader may face serious repercussions. Questions linger over whether such a party can effectively govern state affairs alongside the government and properly check the oversized opposition in parliament.