Food fight continues over ruling party chairman’s lunch at Japanese restaurant

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Aug 5, 2019 - 14:14
  • Updated : Aug 5, 2019 - 14:47

Political parties continued their quarrel over the weekend as to whether it was appropriate for Lee Hae-chan, the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, to visit a Japanese restaurant for lunch on Friday, the day Japan excluded South Korea from its whitelist of trusted trade partners.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party -- grappling to appease public backlash sparked by its lawmaker Rep. Kim Jae-won appearing at the National Assembly under the influence of alcohol last week -- hounded Lee Hae-chan for eating at a Japanese restaurant and insisted that Lee drank sake, a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage.

The ruling Democratic Party sought to contain the controversy, saying, “It is an excessive political attack as the restaurant is run by a Korean owner and uses ingredients sourced in Korea.”

It argued Lee drank a glass of “cheongju,” a traditional Korean wine made of rice, and not sake. 

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea Chairman Lee Hae-chan speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly on Monday morning. (Yonhap)

Opposition parties kept bashing him, saying it was inappropriate for the chairman of the ruling party to eat at a Japanese restaurant given that Seoul’s relations with Tokyo had just hit a new low.

“The sole fact that the ruling party chairman ate at a Japanese restaurant on the day Korea was removed from Japan’s whitelist is inappropriate. It was a hasty move that should not have happened in such a serious situation,” said Kim Hyun-ah, spokesperson for the Liberty Korea Party.

The conservative minor opposition Bareunmirae Party also lashed out at the ruling party, accusing it of “attempting to divert attention from the main point, saying it was ‘jeongjong’ (refined rice wine), not sake, that Lee drank.”

The progressive minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace criticized Lee Hae-chan for drinking over lunch, while progressive minor opposition Justice Party did not comment. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (