A South Korean politician who as soon as mentioned he aspired to be a “profitable Bernie Sanders” is main the sphere to interchange Moon Jae-in as president after rising to prominence with an aggressive pandemic response and a populist financial agenda.
Lee Jae-myung, the governor of Gyeonggi province, has led in lots of current nationwide polls and dominated the early rounds of the ruling liberal Democratic Occasion main, together with the most recent voting over the weekend.
As governor, Lee advocated for universal basic income and instituted money funds to all 24-year-old folks for a yr.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all province residents additionally obtained common funds.
Underneath Lee, Gyeonggi additionally took aggressive steps to fight the pandemic, introducing restrictions on gatherings that had been later adopted by the nationwide authorities, raiding a church on the centre of a giant outbreak, and imposing a controversial requirement that every one international residents be examined.
His outsider picture was as soon as seen as a legal responsibility within the face of multinational opponents with nearer ties to the outgoing Moon.
However with many South Koreans disillusioned by runaway housing costs, a poor employment outlook for younger folks and a string of corruption scandals, that populist message has pushed him to the top of the pack as he seems to be to blunt conservatives’ efforts to capitalise on voter discontent.
Lee now not compares himself to Sanders, the progressive senator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Occasion nomination for U.S. president, and has expressed willingness to regulate his insurance policies to keep away from strife whereas embracing “compromise and consensus”.
However he nonetheless casts himself as somebody who will tackle the institution – which in the meanwhile is essentially his personal social gathering.
“Solely politicians who’ve the braveness and driving pressure to place up with the resistance and backlash from the institution can maintain and fulfil guarantees and obtain outcomes,” Lee mentioned throughout a main within the japanese province of Gangwon on Sunday.
“And I’ve by no means made a promise that I couldn’t maintain.”
Increasing welfare state
Born to an impoverished farming household in a distant mountain village within the nation’s southeast, Lee, 56, attributes his give attention to financial equality to an adolescence as a toddler labourer in chemical factories that left him with impaired listening to and a wrist deformity.
When elected mayor of Seongnam, one of many largest cities in Gyeonggi, in 2010, he initiated a plan to ascertain a brand new, bigger public hospital with unprecedented numbers of destructive strain rooms and intensive care beds.
The power now serves as a nationwide COVID-19 centre and has handled greater than 3,000 sufferers.
“Holding folks from disasters and infectious illnesses by offering public medical service is without doubt one of the authorities’s most elementary duties, and my political profession started from there,” Lee advised Reuters in December.
A longtime advocate of common primary earnings, Lee vowed to offer 1 million received ($850) to all residents and one other 1 million to folks aged 19-29 yearly if he takes workplace.
He additionally pledged to spice up housing provide by constructing greater than 2.5 million houses, together with 1 million to be distributed underneath a “primary residence” scheme, geared toward permitting non-homeowners to reside in high-quality public housing at low costs for as much as 30 years.
To bankroll the programmes, Lee proposed a carbon tax and a nationwide land tax scheme to extend taxes for all property holders and lower transaction prices.
“I’ll undertake common primary earnings as a nationwide coverage to pave the best way for a grand transition from a low burden, low welfare state to a medium burden, medium welfare state, whereas minimising tax resistance,” he advised a information convention in late July.
From outsider to frontrunner
Lee, who got here in third in the course of the Democratic Occasion’s final presidential main in 2017, has been dogged by private controversy whereas in workplace, together with allegations of an affair with an actress, which he has denied.
As proof of their alleged relationship, the actress mentioned the governor had a big mole on his physique.
In 2018, Lee publicly undertook an examination to refute that declare, with docs concluding he had no such mark.
A lawsuit by the actress demanding 300 million received ($255,000) in compensation from Lee is pending in courtroom.
Lee’s rise has been pushed mainly by younger and politically impartial South Koreans who propelled Moon to victory in 2017 however have since grown disillusioned.
This yr Lee has pulled previous social gathering bigwigs reminiscent of former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, who had been seen as favourites of insiders in search of a trusted nominee who can defend Moon’s political legacy.
The conservative opposition, in the meantime, stays in disarray with nobody rising as a potent contender but.
“Regardless of mainstream Democrats’ efforts to maintain him at bay, Lee’s expertise and outsider picture cater to many citizens’ longing for a candidate who can get the job performed,” mentioned Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Myongji College in Seoul.($1 = 1,175.9000 received)