Photo: The People Power Party's announcement of Yun Seok-yeol's nomination. Credit: The People Power Party.
After the third and final round of the People Power Party primary 국민의힘 경선 that concluded on November 5, former Supreme Prosecutor Yun Seok-yeol 윤석열 전 검찰총장 won the party's nomination to run in the next presidential election. As the candidate of the main conservative opposition, he will face off Lee Jae-myung 이재명 of the Democratic Party 민주당, the ruling liberal party.
The final round of the PPP featured four candidates, and counted 50% of the party membership votes and 50% of public opinion polls. Yun won 47.9% of the votes, edging out the second place Hong Jun-pyo 홍준표 who won 41.5%. Yu Seung-min 유승민 won 7.5%, and Won Hee-ryong 원희룡 won 3.2%. In his victory speech, Yun said: "This administration would fear my primary victory in its bones, because I am the symbol of fairness that destroyed the hypocrisy of [former Justice Minister] Cho Kuk 조국 and the arrogance of [former Justice Minister] Choo Mi-ae 추미애."
Yun's primary run was a rocky one. He entered the race as a heavy favorite, backed by most of the PPP power players. Yet Yun's transition into politics has been uneven, filled with jaw-dropping gaffes such as praising the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan 전두환 or defending the merits of a superstitious teachings of a mystic who claimed to travel interdimensionally. (See previous coverage, "Yun's True Law.") Yun struggled against Assembly Member Hong Jun-pyo, the 2017 conservative presidential candidate who made up for his lack of organizational backing with strong popular appeal.
Yet in the end, PPP's primary rules that made for a more "closed" primary, favoring the due-paying party members over the general public, gave the advantage to Yun Seok-yeol. Ultimately, 364k people voted in the PPP primary, which is less than a quarter of the number of voters (1.46m) for the more "open"-style Democratic primary. Although Hong prevailed in the opinion polls, 48.2% to 37.9%, Yun made up for the difference by winning the party membership votes decisively, 57.8% to 37.8%.
Yun's manner of victory sets up his next challenge: winning moderates. In a hypothetical head-to-head race against Lee Jae-myung, Hong Jun-pyo consistently fared better because of Hong's broader appeal. Yun was able to capture the nomination by appealing to the PPP members, who were fueled by animus against the liberal administration. But in the general election, Yun will have to deliver a coherent political vision through compelling rhetoric.
The 20th presidential election of the Republic of Korea will be held on March 9, 2022.