By Lee Hyo-jin
Politicians from the ruling People Power Party (PPP) who are vying for the upcoming April 10 general elections apparently face a dilemma over whether to align more closely with President Yoon Suk Yeol or the party’s interim leader Han Dong-hoon.
Candidates from the governing party often share selfies or photos with the president during election campaigns to convey a sense of endorsement and affiliation.
However, there seems to be a shift in this trend as some candidates appear to lean toward Han, who is enjoying increasing popularity after a recent feud with Yoon.
Rep. Chung Jin-suk of the PPP featured a photo with Han on the front page of his yearly activity report, in contrast to the previous year when he used a photo of himself shaking hands with Yoon.
Jang Ye-chan, another PPP politician, recently posted a picture of himself in the same sweatshirt Han wore during a recent visit to Busan.
The party leader has been seeing a rise in popularity following a recent feud with Yoon. While the two appear to have resolved the conflict, some observers say the incident has strengthened Han’s control over party affairs.
On the other hand, the president is still grappling with negative public sentiment surrounding his wife Kim Keon Hee, as well as his latest decision to veto a special bill aimed at properly investigating the 2022 Itaewon crowd crush that killed 159 people.
According to a Gallup Korea poll conducted from Jan. 23 to 25 among 1,001 eligible voters, 52 percent of respondents viewed Han positively as the party leader, while Yoon’s approval rating was at 31 percent, with 63 percent expressing negative evaluations.
Nevertheless, some PPP lawmakers still believe that promoting a close relationship with the president might be beneficial to woo voters. Rep. Kim Young-sun recently uploaded a photo of herself with Yoon for her Facebook wallpaper image.
“The public sentiment is markedly unfavorable toward the Yoon administration. His approval rating, hovering at around the 30 percent range, is relatively low for a president in his second year in office. This indicates a growing discontent among the public regarding Yoon’s handling of state affairs,” said political commentator Park Sang-byung.
Considering the public’s negative sentiment toward Yoon, PPP members may see their party leader as a more favorable alternative, Park said, adding that PPP contenders are expected to face a tougher choice between aligning with Yoon or Han as the elections approach.
“If the current trend continues, it might be more advantageous for the governing party if Yoon reduces his presence in the election, allowing Han Dong-hoon to take a more prominent role,” Park added.