By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean politician who as soon as stated 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 latest nationwide polls and dominated the early rounds of the ruling liberal Democratic Celebration main, together with the most recent voting over the weekend.
As governor, Lee advocated for common fundamental earnings and instituted money funds to all 24-year-old individuals for a 12 months. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all province residents additionally acquired common funds.
Below Lee, Gyeonggi additionally took aggressive steps to fight the pandemic, introducing restrictions on gatherings that have been later adopted by the nationwide authorities, raiding a church on the centre of a big outbreak, and imposing a controversial requirement that each one overseas residents be examined.
His outsider picture was as soon as seen as a legal responsibility within the face of firm rivals with nearer ties to the outgoingMoon.
However with many South Koreans disillusioned by runaway housing costs, a poor employment outlook for younger individuals and a string of corruption scandals, that populist message has pushed him to the pinnacle of the pack as he appears to be like to blunt conservatives’ efforts to capitalise on voter discontent.
Lee now not compares himself to Sanders, the progressive senator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Celebration 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 for the time being is basically his personal celebration.
“Solely politicians who’ve the braveness and driving drive to place up with the resistance and backlash from the institution can hold and fulfil guarantees and obtain outcomes,” Lee stated throughout a main within the japanese province of Gangwon on Sunday. “And I’ve by no means made a promise that I couldn’t hold.”
EXPANDING WELFARE STATE
Born to an impoverished farming household in a distant mountain village within the nation’s southeast, Lee, 56, attributes his deal with financial equality to an formative years as a baby 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 determine a brand new, bigger public hospital with unprecedented numbers of unfavourable stress rooms and intensive care beds. The ability now serves as a nationwide COVID-19 centre and has handled greater than 3,000 sufferers.
“Retaining individuals from disasters and infectious ailments 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 fundamental earnings, Lee vowed to offer 1 million gained ($850) to all residents and one other 1 million to individuals 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 “fundamental dwelling” scheme, aimed toward permitting non-homeowners to dwell 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 reduce transaction prices.
“I’ll undertake common fundamental 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 through the Democratic Celebration’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 stated 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 gained ($255,000) in compensation from Lee is pending in court docket.
Lee’s rise has been pushed mainly by younger and politically unbiased South Koreans who propelled Moon to victory in 2017 however have since grown disillusioned.
This 12 months Lee has pulled previous celebration bigwigs resembling former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, who have been seen as favourites of insiders looking for 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’ yearning for a candidate who can get the job executed,” stated Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Myongji College in Seoul.
($1 = 1,175.9000 gained)