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Moon's premier pick is based in liberal stronghold, has broad political ties

South Jeolla Province Gov. Lee Nak-yon, who was nominated Wednesday as President Moon Jae-in's first prime minister, is expected to contribute to the new leader's goal of national unity with his extensive network in political circles and regional base in the southwest region.

The 64-year-old former journalist and lawmaker is affiliated with Moon's Democratic Party and known as a moderate liberal politician. He served as a lawmaker for four terms in his home in South Jeolla Province before he was elected as governor in 2014.

Moon's choice apparently reflects his principle to build national unity through a diverse government.

"(Moon) said numerous times that he would adopt Honam (Jeolla provinces) as a partner in running state affairs," the governor told Yonhap on a train to Seoul from Gwangju, 329 kilometers south of the capital. "I believe this is the implementation of his words."

The Democratic Party had suffered from bitter internal fighting that pitted Moon's loyalists against two groups of politicians, each affiliated with his rival Ahn Cheol-soo and a Honam-based faction. The two groups defected and created the People's Party in 2016.

The Jeolla provinces are often considered one of the least developed regions in the country as they are believed to have been long neglected under former conservative administrations.

Lee was born to a farming family in Yeonggwang, some 350 kilometers southwest of Seoul, in the province in 1952. He worked as a journalist over two decades at the local daily Donga Ilbo.

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

Lee was a spokesman for the predecessors of the Democratic Party and for the inauguration team of late President Roh Moo-hyun, who was elected in 2002.

Lee graduated from Seoul National University with a bachelor's degree in law in 1974. He is married with one son. (Yonhap)

South Jeolla Province Gov. Lee Nak-yon boards a train to Seoul in Gwangju, 329 kilometers south of the capital, on May 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Sean Kim  edt@koreapost.com

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