The popularity rating of Governor Lee Jae-myung of the Gyeonggi Province has risen to a whopping 32.5% in one of the latest polls on the Presidential hopefuls for the 2022 Presidential race—by-far surpassing Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol (17.5%), Chairman Lee Nak-yeon of the ruling Democratic Party (13%), Chairman Ahn Chul-soo of the People’s Party (5%), and outspoken conservative National Assemblyman Hong Joon-pyo (3.9%).
At the polls conducted by Korean-language daily Segye Ilbo on January 31 this year, they were followed by Incumbent Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun with a 2.8%, former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon with 2%, former National Assemblyman Yoo Seung-min and Governor Won Hee-ryong of Jeju Province sharing a 1.8% win each.
In an earlier survey on January 2 this year by Embrain Public, too, Governor Lee led all the other Presidential hopefuls winning a 28.7 support over Prosecutor General Yoon (14%) and Chairman Lee Nak-yeon of the DP with 11.4%.
Then came Ahn Cheol-soo with 4.8%, Hong Joon-pyo with 4.2%, Chung Se-kyun with 1.7%, Yoo Seung-min with 1.4% which was shared by the former People’s Party Assemblyman Yoo Seung-min, former Chairperson Shim Sang-jeong of the Justice Party, and former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. Former Justice Minister Madam Choo Mi-ae won 1.3% support.
Governor Lee won a substantial 39.2% support even in the two Jeolla provinces where his major contestant Lee Nak-yon (29.4%) had been the governor.
So, who is Lee Jae-myung?
According to Wikipedia, Lee was born on Dec. 22, 1964 in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Together with its sibling province of Gyeongsangnam-do, the two southeastern provinces are traditionally conservative-oriented region in Korea.
Lee is a former attorney who served as mayor of Seongnam-si, the tenth-largest city in South Korea, from 2010 to 2018, and as an unsuccessful candidate for the National Assembly in 2008.
Lee studied law at Chung-Ang University and went on to work in that field before his entry into politics. As mayor, 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.
Lee has received acclaim for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic as Governor.