Korea’s next President: 2 Lees from ruling camp to vie with 2 Kims, Yoon from the opposition
Korea’s next President: 2 Lees from ruling camp to vie with 2 Kims, Yoon from the opposition
  • Lee Kyung-sik
  • 승인 2020.08.03 11:38
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Ex-Premier Lee Nak-yon, Gyonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung in a close contest

By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik, Feature Editors Kim Hyung-dae, Song Na-ra

Who is going to be Korea’s next President? The term of office the incumbent President of Republic of Korea, Mr. Moon Jae-in, ends on May 9, 2022, but the Presidential elections will be held two months earlier on March 9 the same year. This means that the actual power the incumbent President can wield will practically end at the end of the year after next. The lame-duck symptoms will perhaps begin appearing long before then.

However, in the present state, the progressive forces in Korea are expected to continue their rule in Korea as the conservative camp is badly split between the ultra-right-wing forces following former President Park Geun-hye who is still in jail due to official graft cases and another conservative former President Lee Myung-bak is in a de-factor house confinement status as his activities are limited within his house.


From left : Lee Nak-yon, Lee Jae-myung, Yoon Seok-yeol
From left : Lee Nak-yon, Lee Jae-myung, Yoon Seok-yeol

The latest survey conducted by NBS on the Presidential candidates July 27, 2020, showed former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon leading with 24% closely followed by Governor Lee Jae-myung of the Gyeonggi Province with 20%. They were followed by Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol with 8%

The fourth-place which was a 3% support went to President Ahn Chul-soo of the People’s Party, Independent National Assemblyman Hong Joon-pyo, and former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. The fifth place (2%) went to former National Assemblyman Yoo Seung-min and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Governor Won Hee-ryong of Jeju Province won 1%.

The conservative political camp in Korea is badly split between the ultra-rights and reform-minded rightists. The former group is substantially influenced by former conservative Presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak, while the reform-minded rightist group led by Chairman Kim Chong-in of the Emergency Measures Committee of the United Feature Party (UFP) is viewed to speak for the rightists in Korea who are considered to try to be ‘clean’ and differentiate themselves from the right-wing group presently discredited by the incumbent government and ruling circles.


From left : Hong Jung-wook, Kim Dong-yeon, Ahn Chul-soo
From left : Hong Jung-wook, Kim Dong-yeon, Ahn Chul-soo

In this situation, the contest at this time appears to be among the reform-minded progressives represented by Lee Nak-yon and Lee Jae-myung.

Both Lee Nak-yon and Lee Jae-myung were born with a ‘mud spoon in the mouth’ meaning that they both hail from a poor family as in the case of many other people in the present government of the President Moon Jae-in.

However, there is one thing very clear.

The two Presidential hopefuls, Lee Nak-yon and Lee Jae-myung, are generally viewed as being not out-and-out progressives as many people in the important posts of the incumbent government of President Moon and the ruling political camp.


From left : Hong Joon-pyo, Oh Se-hoon, Yoo Seung-min, Hwang Kyo-ahn
From left : Hong Joon-pyo, Oh Se-hoon, Yoo Seung-min, Hwang Kyo-ahn

However, there are one and half years more to go before the Presidential elections and many changes can happen.

In the opinion of Chairman Kim Jong-in of the main opposition UFP Emergency Measures Committee, many things can happen and anything can happen in the next one and half years before the Presidential election.

“I would say that Presidential candidates for the conservative camp will start appearing in November this year because they would need one and half years for the voters to learn the candidates,” said Chairman Kim at a recent interview with Chosun Ilbo and other Korean-language media reporters.

Chairman Kim said that the incumbent Presidential will substantially lose his power and influence with a year of his term left when the term of office of the members of the National Assembly has three more years to go.

“At this time,” Kim predicted, “President Moon appears to be pretty well in control of the ruling camp, but the axis of power will move toward to Presidential candidates of the party.”

Asked if he had any candidates in mind, Kim replied, “I would say that candidates born after 1970 would do well.” This means that the candidates he has in mind are those in the 50s or younger.

Then he said, “The President must be one who must be able to ‘feed’ the people.” Kim has always emphasized that “the President must be able to help the people make money and make the people’s living easy!”

Here are the resumes of the five Presidential hopefuls, two from the ruling camp, and three from the opposition. Much of the information comes from Wikipedia. Additional details of their personal history are found in Wikipedia.


Resume of Lee Nak-yon:

Born on Dec. 20, 1952, Lee is the 41st Prime Minister of Korea and is the longest-serving one since the Constitution was last revised in 1987. Lee previously served as the governor of Jeollanam-do, a stronghold of his party. Before serving as governor, he worked as a journalist for the Dong-a Ilbo Korean-language daily and served as a member of the National Assembly for four terms.

Lee was chosen for the position of Prime Minister by President Moon in order to appease other factions within the Democratic Party. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Lee became well-known for his forceful exchanges with opposition party leaders and adeptness at communicating with citizens. Prior to and following his victory in the crucial Jongno district in the 2020 legislative election against conservative Hwang Kyo-ahn, another probable Presidential candidate, he has been said to be a favorite in the 2022 South Korean Presidential election.

Lee was born on Dec. 20, 1951 in Yeonggwang County in South Jeolla Province. After graduating from Seoul National University with a degree in law, he worked as a journalist for the daily Dong-a Ilbo newspaper until 2000.

He entered politics in 2000 "based on his ties with former President Kim Dae-jung he formed while covering politics."

Following his departure from the Dong-a Ilbo he was elected as a member of the National Assembly in 2000 and served for four terms. He also served as a spokesman for former President Roh Moo-hyun when he was the President-elect in 2002.

Lee left office in the middle of his fourth term in 2014 to successfully run for governor of South Jeolla Province.

On May 10, 2017, Lee was nominated by President Moon to be the next Prime Minister of South Korea, succeeding Hwang Kyo-ahn. He left office as governor of the South Jeolla Province on the same day. He is seen as having close ties with key Japanese politicians, having served many years as a senior officer in the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union. Lee speaks fluent Japanese.

On June 25, Prime Minister Lee urged North Korea to release their prisoners. On July 27, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who is known to be knowledgeable about Japan, criticized the accord regarding ‘comfort women’.

On August 16, Lee reacted negatively to calls for South Korea to possess nuclear weapons, saying the move would undermine Seoul's calls for North Korea to denuclearize, trigger a nuclear arms race, and put the country under international sanctions.

Reflecting such calls, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party adopted a demand for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear arms as its official party line during a general meeting of its lawmakers. On November 29, Lee raised concerns that cryptocurrencies were corrupting the youth of South Korea, remarking “There are cases in which young Koreans including students are jumping in to make quick money and virtual currencies are used in illegal activities like drug dealing or multi-level marketing for frauds”.

Post-PM career:
In 2020 election, Lee stood for Jongno constituency and defeated the UFP President Hwang Kyo-ahn. In July 2020 Lee announced his campaign for the leader of his party, Democratic Party, highlighting his experiences dealing with "crises" that are much needed in transitioning into the post-COVID 19 era.

Personal life:
Lee is married. Lee Nak-yon's family root is the Jeonju Yi clan. He is also the 22nd-generation descendant of Grand Prince Wanpung of the Joseong Dynasty who was the elder half-brother of King Taejo of the Dynasty, the founder of Joseon Kingdom. Lee is a member of the South Korean Presbyterian Church.


Resume of Lee Jae-myung:

Lee was born on Dec. 22, 1964, and served as Governor of Gyeonggi Province since 2018. Before, he served as Mayor of Seongnam-si, the tenth-largest city in South Korea, from 2010 to 2018. He is a member of the liberal Democratic Party.

Lee was born in Andong, studied law at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, and went on to work in that field before he entered politics. As mayor of the Seongnam City, he achieved recognition for creating Seongnam's social welfare program, widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive social welfare programs in the nation for the city's elderly citizens and youth.

While Mayor, Lee ran for President in the 2017 presidential election. Considered one of the three most important potential candidates in the run-up to the election, Lee received third place in the Democratic primary behind former party chair and National Assembly member (and eventual winner) Moon Jae-in and Ahn Hee-jung, the Governor of South Chungcheong Province. As a result of his left-wing populist views, he has been compared to American politician Bernie Sanders.

Following his loss in the presidential election, Lee ran for Governor of Gyeonggi Province, which encompasses much of the Seoul Capital Area. Following his election, he faced legal issues stemming from alleged violation of campaign rules that put his governorship into question. Lee has received acclaim for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic as Governor and is considered to be a top candidate in the 2022 South Korean presidential election.

In 1963, he was born as the fifth of seven siblings in Andong-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do. After graduating from elementary school, he couldn't go to middle and high school because of his family's financial difficulties. He moved to Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do in 1976 and worked as a laborer for six years until 1981, but was exempted from military service because he was judged to be a sixth-degree disabled person due to an industrial accident. Since 1978, he has prepared for the qualification exam and passed the high school and college entrance exams. After entering the law department of Chung-Ang University in 1982 as a scholarship student, he passed the bar exam upon graduation in 1986. After completing the 18th term of Judicial Research and Training Institute in 1989, he became a lawyer.

After opening his career as a lawyer in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, he served as the head of labor counseling centers in Icheon and Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, and was in charge of defending the current situation and labor case.

He joined the Uri Party on Aug. 23, 2005 and announced his intention to run for Seongnam mayor. Selection of candidates to run in local elections in 2006, Seongnam-si, by the Judges, Roh Moo-hyun regime for the, surfaced at the defeated. In the 2007 presidential election, he served as senior vice-presidential secretary for presidential candidate Chung Dong-young, and in the 2008 general elections, he was strategically nominated to Bundang-gu, Seongnam, but lost the election.

Academic background:
Passed the high school and college entrance exams from 1978 to 1982.
Graduated from Chung-Ang University's College of Law in 1986.
Graduated from Kyungwon University (currently Gachon University) Graduate School of Public Administration in 2005, Master's degree in Public Administration and Master's degree in Public Administration.


Resume of Yoon Suk-yeol:

Yoon, incumbent prosecutor general in Korea, was born in Seoul on Feb. 3, 1961. His father, Yoon Ki-joong, is a retired educator from Daegu graduated from Yonsei University in Seoul and Hitotsubashi University in Japan who later established the Korean Statistical Society and now as a full member of the National Academy of Sciences of Korea. His mother was born in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, and was a lecturer of Ewha Woman's University in Seoul.

Yoon attended Chungam High School and studied law at Seoul National University. Shortly after the Gwangju Uprising, Yoon and his colleagues held a mock trial, where he acted as the prosecutor who demanded the death penalty for President Chun Doo-hwan. Following the mock trial, Yoon had to escape to Gangwon Province.

Yoon started his career at Daegu Public Prosecutor’s Office in 1994. He headed the Special Branch and Central Investigation Department, both investigate corruption-related cases. In 1999, he arrested an Assistant Commissioner Park Hui-won who was involved in corruption despite of strong objections from bureaucrats of the Kim Dae-jung cabinet.

In January 2002, Yoon shortly worked as a lawyer at Bae, Kim & Lee but quit as he felt he was not suitable to hold the position. He immediately returned as a prosecutor and arrested pro-Roh Moo-hyun figures i.e. Ahn Hee-jung and Kang Keum-won. In 2006, he apprehended Chung Mong-koo of Hyundai Business Group for his complicity in slush fund incident of Hyundai Motor Company. In 2008, he worked for the independent counsel team resolving BBK incident related to President Lee Myung-bak.

In 2013, Yoon led a special investigation team that looked into the National Intelligence Service's involvement in the 2012 NIS public opinion manipulation scandal. Yoon sought the prosecution of the former head of the NIS, Won Sei-hoon for violating the Public Official Election Act. He accused Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (later Prime Minister of Korea) of influencing his investigation. As a result, Yoon was demoted from the Seoul prosecutors' office to the Daegu and Daejeon High Prosecutors' Office.

Yoon later became head of investigations in the team of special prosecutor Park Young-soo which investigated the allegations of the 2016 Choi Soon-sil scandal involving Choi, Samsung Vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong and President Park Geun-hye which led to the impeachment of the President in December 2016.

On 19 May 2017, President Moon Jae-in appointed Yoon as the Chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. The prosecution indicted two former presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, three former NIS chiefs, former chief justice Yang Sung-tae and more than 100 other former officials and business executives under his tenure. Yoon also led an investigation into accounting fraud at Samsung.

On June 17, 2019, Yoon was nominated as the Prosecutor General, replacing Moon Moo-il. His nomination was welcomed by the ruling Democratic Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace but was also opposed by the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareunmirae Party. A minor center-left Justice Party remained neutral. On 16 July, he was officially appointed as the new Prosecutor General and started his term 9 days later. President Moon ordered him to be neutral, adding that any kind of corruption must be strictly investigated though it is related to the government.

Yoon led investigations against the Minister of Justice Cho Kuk, who was involved in various scandals. His decision was welcomed by the opposition but was also condemned by the Democratic Party and its supporters.

After Choo Mi-ae was appointed as the new Minister of Justice, she took an action against several prosecutors who are close to Yoon. Choo blamed this decision on Yoon's failure to submit a reorganization plan for his department which she requested but this was seen as retaliation by the Blue House for Cho Kuk's prosecution.

Yoon identifies himself as "conservative" adding that he was inspired from economically liberal Milton Friedman. He seeks a gradual change rather than a radical change. A former Conservative MP, Chung Doo-un, agreed to consider him as a conservative.

He is considered a potential presidential candidate for the 2022 presidential election.

Yoon is married to Mrs. Kim Kun-hui, the President of Covana Contents. She is 12 years younger than Yoon.


Resume of Ryan Jungwook Hong (Hong Jung-wook):

Hong was born on March 14, 1970. He headed the Herald Corporation (including English daily, The Korea Herald, and Korean-language business daily, Herald Kyungje, other related companies, including a leading content and lifestyle group in Korea. According to Wikipedia, Hong is also the founding chairman of Organica, a pioneering Korean natural food company. Hong also heads the Olje Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting classics education.

Hong is the son of a popular movie actor, Namgung Won. Hong graduated from Apgujeong Elementary School and Apgujeong Middle School in Seoul. He left Korea in 1985 to study in the United States and went on to graduate from Choate Rosemary Hall in 1989. He received his A.B., magna cum laude, in East Asian Studies from Harvard University in 1993 and J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1998. He also studied political science at Seoul National University in Korea and international politics at the graduate school of Peking University in China.

After passing the New York State Bar in 1998, Hong joined the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at Lehman Brothers in New York, but left the firm in 1999 to co-found an internet startup in California. In 2001, he returned to Korea to fulfill his military duty. In December 2002, he acquired Herald Corporation, a venerable newspaper company. He turned the company around and quickly expanded its business into the internet, broadcasting, magazines, and education.

In 2008, Hong resigned as chairman of Herald Corporation and was elected to the National Assembly. Serving on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, he was the chairman of the ruling Grand National Party's International Affairs Committee and the Honorary Ambassador of Grant Aid for the Korean government. In 2012, however, he decided not to seek reelection and returned to his companies.

Upon return, Hong transformed Herald Corporation into a content and lifestyle group with businesses ranging from media and education to natural foods and biodegradable plastics. Herald corporation publishes The Korea Herald, the nation's dominant English newspaper, and The Herald Business, Korea's largest afternoon financial daily; runs Herald Edu, Korea's largest English immersion campus network; manages Herald Artday, an online art auction company, and Herald Design Forum, one of Asia's premier design forums; and owns Biota, a manufacturer of biodegradable plastic films. Since 2005, Herald Corporation has enjoyed over a decade of consecutive growth and profitability and is now one of Korea's most profitable media companies.

In 2011, Hong established Olje Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting classics publication and education by offering Olje Classics and Olje Selections – a carefully curated series of Western and Eastern literature, philosophy, religion, and history books – to the public at low costs and donating 20% of the books to schools, libraries, armed forces, prisons, etc.

Hong has served on the Board and the Operating Advisory Committee of the National Museum of Korea since 2008 and has been a member of the Choate Board of Trustees since 2016, in addition to founding the Young Friends of the Museum. He is also a member of the Operating Committee of the Seoul National University Museum of Art. In 2014, Hong founded Herald Philharmonic Orchestra to promote and support classical music.

In 2005, Hong was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2005, an Asia 21 Fellow by Asia Society in 2006, and a Young World Leader by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt in 2008. During his 4-year term in the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, he won numerous awards, honors, and distinctions. He also received an honorary doctorate degree in political science at Yongin University.

In 1993, Hong authored Seven Acts Seven Scenes, a memoir of his experience in the U.S. and China, which has sold over 1.3 million copies to date.

Hong and his wife, Nicole Junghee Sohn, a ceramics sculpture artist, live in Seoul, Korea. They have three children, Josephine Jisung, Claire Jisu, and Alexander Euisung.


Resume of Kim Dong-yeon:

Kim was born in Eumseong County, Chungcheongbuk-do province on Jan. 28, 1957, and worked as President Moon Jae-in's first Minister of Economy and Finance and ex officio Deputy Prime Minister of South Korea until December 2018.

After finishing high school, he worked at Seoul Trust Bank (now absorbed into Hana Bank) while completing his undergraduate degree in law at the nigh school of now-Seokyeong University. He spent most of his time in government at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and its preceding agencies where he began and ended his career in public service.

In 1982 he passed the state exams for both legal affairs and administration and began working as a working-level administrator at its preceding agency. He took numerous economy and budgeting related roles in government ministries, Office of the President and Presidential Transition Committee.

He was recruited by three consecutive Presidents. He was Lee Myung-bak's second deputy finance minister and Park Geun-hye's minister for government policy coordination. Before promoted to Moon Jae-in's first finance minister, he was the 15th president of Ajou University for two years.

Kim holds four degrees--a bachelor in law from now-Seokyeong University, two master's in administration from Seoul National University and the University of Michigan, and a doctorate in administration from the University of Michigan.

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