South Korea’s ruling liberal party on Sunday nominated its candidate for next year’s presidential elections, choosing a temperamental politician known for his outspoken views who is likely to be the front runner in the race.
Lee Jae-myung’s nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate comes despite efforts by his rivals to paint him as a dangerous populist and link him to a snowballing real estate scandal.
Lee has vowed to fight economic inequality, introduce a universal basic income and resume reconciliation projects with North Korea
In his acceptance speech, Lee leaned deeply at times, saying he wanted to fulfill a public call to “root out unfairness, inequality and corruption” and take other sweeping reform measures.
“I restrain excessive desire by the strong and protect the lives of the weak. I will protect the jobs, income and welfare of the people,” said Lee.
Party officials announced that Lee collected nearly 50.3% of all votes cast during the race, defeating three challengers in the Democratic Party primary that ended on Sunday.
Lee, 56, is the governor of South Korea’s most populous Gyeonggi province, which surrounds the capital of Seoul. He is known as a tough-talking liberal who has built up an image as an anti-incumbency figure. He is also known for his self-made success story as he worked as a boy laborer in a factory, a time that left him with a hand incapacity before teaching himself the law, the country’s notoriously difficult Passed the bar exam and worked as a human rights lawyer.
Before becoming governor in 2018, Lee served as the mayor of Seongnam, a city inside Gyeonggi, for eight years. Previously a political outsider, he rose rapidly amid public anger over an explosive 2016-17 corruption scandal that eventually led to the ouster of conservative President Park Geun-hee.
Lee has said that if elected, he would focus on reducing South Korea’s deep-rooted economic polarization and inequality, which he says causes other social problems, as well as South Korea’s economic harming development.
Some of his actions and campaign promises have drawn accusations from critics that they are populist-driven ideas. Among them is his provision of a COVID-19 relief fund for all Gyeonggi residents, contrary to the central government’s decision to give such money to only 88% of the country’s population; a promise to adopt a universal basic income to give all citizens at least 1 million won ($840) every year; and insisted on not charging toll fees from cars using a bridge in Gyeonggi.
Lee also faced a growing political attack by his opponents over a questionable property development project in Seongnam, when he served as mayor there. A former senior city official has been arrested in connection with this scam. A small property management firm and its associates profited heavily from the project and there are suspicions about possible corrupt links between them, city officials and other high-profile figures.
Next year’s election on March 9 is likely to be a two-way race between Lee and who wins the nomination of the main conservative People Power Party in November. Recent polls put Lee ahead of either of the two major conservative candidates for the presidency, although some indicated they were in a neck-and-neck contest.
The election is to find a successor to current President Moon Jae-in, a Democratic Party member whose single five-year term has been marked by dramatic tensions with North Korea, a worsening conservative-liberal split in the house, and various economic crises.
Regarding North Korea, Lee said he would follow the same policy of appeasement as Moon. He said he would seek relief from international sanctions on the North to restart stalled inter-Korean cooperation projects. To resolve North Korea’s nuclear crisis, Lee said he would propose that each North Korean denuclearization move be matched with sanctions easing, which could be reinstated if the North was able to implement its disarmament promises. fails.
Those proposals were nothing new and it is not clear whether they can be realized. The US has said that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearization.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /