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HomeAsiaThe Diplomat: A Conversation with Song Young-gil, South Korea’s Second Opposition Leader

The Diplomat: A Conversation with Song Young-gil, South Korea’s Second Opposition Leader

As South Korea’s 2024 general election approaches, the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and the leading opposition Democratic Party (DP) are preparing for a contentious race. At this point, the liberal DP, led by Lee Jae-myung, has the upper hand as they currently hold enough seats in the legislature to block any actions by President Yoon Suk-yeol of the PPP. The DP’s significant win over the PPP in October’s Gangseo District by-election gives them an advantage heading into the April 2024 election. However, Lee is facing a criminal investigation over graft and other charges, while President Yoon’s approval rating is declining, yet the DP has been unable to form a united front against him.

Amid this uncertainty, political figures that were once prominent members of the DP are attempting comebacks. One such figure is Song Young-gil, former head of the DP, mayor of Incheon, and a five-time elected lawmaker. Song has vowed to form a new party to challenge Yoon and his clique. His willingness to fight has attracted attention from DP voters. Song spoke to The Diplomat earlier this month about his election strategies and why he believes Yoon is unfit to lead the country.

Song explained that his plans had changed since Lee Jae-myung lost the presidential race to Yoon. He mentioned that he might run as a proportional representation candidate, with the goal of helping the DP maintain its dominance in the National Assembly and form a stronger coalition against the president. He also discussed potentially forming a new party and partnering with others who share the goal of removing President Yoon from power.

Song criticized President Yoon’s leadership, claiming that the president has failed to lead the nation effectively and has damaged democratic norms through his actions. He pointed to various allegations of criminal activities by Yoon and his family, along with attempts to obstruct investigations and suppress press freedom.

Responding to critiques about potentially dividing the liberal camp, Song explained that his initiatives could help expand liberal forces and maintain dominance in the legislature, as his new party would primarily consist of proportional representation candidates. He also addressed allegations related to a “cash-for-vote scandal” and expressed his frustration with the ongoing investigation and its potential impact on his bid in the April election.

Overall, Song’s take on the upcoming general election underscores the complex dynamics at play in South Korean politics as the parties on both sides gear up for a fierce battle in 2024.

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