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Han Dong-hoon dismisses the ‘rumor of studying abroad after the general election’… Any hint of a challenge for party power or presidency?

[4·10 총선] “A remark that emphasizes victory in the urgent general election”… Over-interpretation boundary diagram

People Power Party Emergency Response Committee Chairman Han Dong-hoon visited the traditional market in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province on March 22. [뉴시스]

“I think this is the first statement that People Power Party Emergency Committee Chairman Han Dong-hoon made in detail about ‘after April 10th.’ It appears to have hinted at his political moves after the general election and his stance on the next party leadership. “The recent visit to former President Park Geun-hye can also be seen as drawing up a roadmap for the 2027 presidential election.” (Kim Cheol-hyun, special professor at Kyungil University and vice president of the Korean Association of Political Critics)

●“Do our best for the public good until the end”

Recently, attention is being focused on the meaning and background of the remarks made by Han Dong-hoon, Chairman of the People Power Party’s Emergency Response Committee, dismissing the ‘study abroad theory after the general election’ made by some in the political world. While giving a speech in support of People Power Party candidate Jeong Yong-seon at the Traditional Market in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province on March 22, Chairman Han of the National Emergency Committee began by saying, “Someone said this in the morning that I will go study abroad after the election,” and added, “It is not a time to learn something, but a public opportunity for you.” All that remains is to serve. “I promise that I will keep my word until the end and do my best for the public good until the end,” he said.

There has been speculation in the political world that after the 22nd general election, regardless of victory or defeat, Chairman Han will distance himself from real politics in the form of studying abroad. It is interpreted that if the ruling party loses, responsibility will boil over, which will inevitably take a toll on his political career, and even if he wins, the title of next presidential candidate will be burdensome with more than three years remaining in President Yoon Seok-yeol’s term. When asked if he had any intention of running for the next presidency depending on the results of the general election, Chairman Han responded, “Whether I win or lose, my life won’t be a little messed up after April 10th.” (Remarks made at a debate invited to the Kwanhun Club on February 7).

Regarding the background of the emergency committee chairman’s dismissal of the ‘study abroad theory’, Kim Cheol-hyeon, a special professor at Kyungil University, said, “Even in the part where ‘public good’ is mentioned, the will for future political action can be read,” adding, “The situation may change depending on the results of this general election. “There is an option for a contingency chairman to challenge for the next party leadership, and when the party leader’s term ends around 2026, the race for the presidency begins ahead of the presidential election the following year,” he said. His analysis follows.

“During the national campaign, Emergency Committee Chairman Han must have felt the ‘Han Dong-hoon effect.’ From the perspective of the head of the emergency committee, there is also the position he has built within the party. After the general election, he blocked the possibility of a vacuum being created if he left the party. (This remark) is a move by which he is trying to control both inside and outside the party while giving the nuance that he is challenging the party power.”

Recently, there are concerns inside and outside the ruling party that the so-called ‘presidential office risk’ is having a negative impact on the general election. In this situation, as views were growing that the vertical relationship between the party and the Blue House was becoming entrenched, it could be interpreted that one emergency committee chairman was sending a message that he would remain in the party even after the general election.

In an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo on March 25 (released on the 27th), Chairman Han of the emergency committee was asked, “The candidates within the party point out the risk of a presidential misfire.” He responded, “I do not agree with grouping things like that,” but added, “There are shortcomings in both the party and the government.” When there is an aspect that does not properly reflect public sentiment, it must be pointed out firmly and corrections must be made. In that respect, I have never hesitated. “Even if I lead the party after winning the general election, I have no intention of making any concessions in that area,” he said.

There are various interpretations regarding the fact that Emergency Committee Chairman Han paid a courtesy visit to former President Park Geun-hye at her residence in Daegu on March 26. In February 2018, the prosecutor who sentenced former President Park to 30 years in prison at the first trial for the ‘government corruption case’, saying, “By privatizing official authority, she manipulated state affairs and undermined constitutional values,” was none other than Chairman Han. In that respect, the popular view is that former President Park’s visit was aimed at the effect of uniting conservatives in a larger context. However, some say that this move will have a negative impact on winning centrist votes by recalling ‘memories of impeachment’ among the ruling party’s general election candidates in the metropolitan area. In response to this, Professor Kim Cheol-hyun said, “There is an aspect that can be seen as a visit to former President Park by Chairman of the National Emergency Management Committee as part of the roadmap for the 2027 presidential election.” “There is a need for political reconciliation with the President, and by meeting former President Park this time, it can be interpreted that Chairman Han is managing his image in the eyes of orthodox conservatives,” he said.

●Prevention of Park Geun-hye, interpretation of ‘roadmap for presidential election’

However, there is also a view that we should not overinterpret the remarks of the emergency committee chairman who denied the ‘study abroad theory after the general election’. Park Seong-min, CEO of Min Political Consulting, said, “I don’t think it’s something to give meaning to. “He emphasized that the power of the people must win the general election if he wants to continue in politics,” he said. Moreover, for emergency committee chairman Han, the urgent priority is not the mid- to long-term political roadmap, but the general election, which is just 10 days away. Various recent opinion polls show that the ruling party is struggling in major battlegrounds across the country. Professor Kim said, “If the People Power Party wins less than 120 seats in this general election, the ‘Han Dong-hoon effect’ virtually did not exist, so there is no basis for Chairman Han to challenge for the next party leadership. “If the ruling party wins about 130 seats, it will do well, and if it wins over 140 seats, it will prove the ‘Han Dong-hoon effect,’” he said.

Representative Park Seong-min said, “Recently, an emergency committee chairperson said, ‘We need to be more sensitive to public sentiment.’ He pointed out, “Just like what Rep. Jang Je-won said in the past when he said, ‘We will create a political party where Yoon’s sentiment becomes the party’s sentiment and the party’s sentiment becomes the people’s sentiment,” he pointed out, “We need to make sure that the public’s sentiment becomes the party’s sentiment and the party’s sentiment becomes Yun’s sentiment, but we are not able to do that.” His analysis follows.

“Recently, due to the unfavorable situation, one of the emergency committee chairs is talking about ‘conservative right wing’ and ‘liberal right wing’, but it is not helpful at all. It is difficult to understand that he paid a courtesy visit to former President Park in a situation where both the Nakdong River belt and the Han River belt are shaking. Currently, the People Power Party must appoint a person of the caliber of the next presidential candidate because it is not enough to have just one contingency committee chairman. For example, on the mega city issue, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon can be raised, and on the medical school quota issue, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo can be raised. However, I don’t see a strategy to ‘go to the future’ by using these people. “The problem is that President Yoon and emergency committee chairman Han think they are doing a good job.”

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