By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Ms. Kim Jung-mi
The MBC TV News announced on May 8, 2019 the result of its opinion polls on the people’s preference of Korea’s next President. The first place winner was Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon with a 46% support followed by Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party with 29.2%.
Another recent opinion survey on the Presidential hopefuls in Korea on March 29, 2019 show Prime Minister Lee leading the polls with 43.1% followed by Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn with 37.4%, 10.2% with no opinions, and 9.3% various other groups of people.
In still another survey conducted by Real Meter on June 4, 2019 published by Korean-language daily, Joong-Ang Ilbo, Hwang led the polls with 22.4% followed very closely by Prime Minister Lee with 20.8%. The third place went to Governor Lee Jae-myung of the Seongnam City of the Gyeonggi Province.
Thus, Lee and Hwang swap the first place in the opinion surveys.
Lee and Hwang have both advantages and drawbacks.
In the case of Prime Minister Lee, much depends on how incumbent President Moon Jae-in does in the face of screening voters in Seoul and other parts of the Republic of Korea. If President Moon does well, it is favorable reflected on the popularity rating of Lee as Korea’s next President as he is now serving Moon as the prime minister.
Likewise, Hwang is also affected by the supporters of former President Park Geun-hye and also anti-Park conservatives who want to dump Park and form an entirely new, clean conservative political camp, which, however, does not seem to be easy due to the ‘die-hard’ supporters of Park.
Thus, if Moon does well Lee gets the favorable effects while it is Hwang who gains the people’s support and sympathy when Moon does something wrong.
Hwang is very widely known already serving as the prime minister of the Park Geun-hye Government.
In contrast, however, Lee is not widely known, and it might be a good idea to try to shed light on Prime Minister Lee.
Lee Nak-yun is originally a journalist working as a report and desk editor at the popular Korean-language newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo, which is traditionally a politically opposition newspaper. Dong-A is famous for trying to ridicule the all-powerful first-term President Syngman Rhee. Dong-A published a popular comic strip named Go Bau by Artist Kim Sung-hwan ridiculing the then all-powerful President Syngman Rhee by portraying Seoul citizens making a respectful bow to the ‘honey bucketman’ carrying the waste from the Presidential Mansion then called Gyeongmudae instead of today’s Cheong Wa Dae.
So, Prime Minister Lee started out as an out-and-out opposition newspaper bravely ridiculing the all-powerful Head of Government of Korea during the severe dictatorial regimes.
Prime Minister Lee, even today, from time to time makes public remarks reminiscent of the old days during the dictatorial regimes. Even when Lee makes remarks in defense of the policies of President Moon, which not always have the full support of the people, Lee tries to make them sound a little more in a direction where the people would not be offended. In this respect, Lee is a considered a great credit to President Moon and his government.
However, Lee, naturally, has limitations in his defense of President Moon and, when the people are not 100% in support of some of the policies of Moon, Lee’s popularity rating falls.
So, if President Moon wants Lee to take over the present political forces to carry on the somewhat progressively oriented policies which he has been implementing, many people opine that Moon should give Lee a larger measure of free hand.
Already, signs have begun showing indicative of the possibility of Lee’s waning of popularity in the face of progressive-oriented policies put out by Moon, which are shunned by the conservative camp in Korea. And this situation adversely affects the popularity rating of Prime Minister Lee as the successor of the Moon government.
The more left-leaning tendency is shown in the policies of Moon, the smaller become the support rating of Prime Minister Lee as successor to Moon.
Already, some opinion polls conducted most recently show Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of the Liberty Korea Party overtaking Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.
This is seen as a stern warning to President Moon Jae-in not to go overly to ‘the left side’ because the Republic of Korea is basically a country of free democracy living with the support of the United States and all the other members of the Free World.
In this regard, it appears that the success or failure of Prime Minister Lee in regard to the possibility to succeed to Moon as the next President of the Republic Korea depends substantially on how much Moon can secure the support of the people in the ‘right wing’ in the Korean political arena.
The most important factor in the current political situation in Korea is the ‘silent majority’ whose opinion is not visibly reflected in the polls.
Prime Minister Lee (and President Moon Jae-in in this regard) should bear in mind that the ‘silent majority’ in Korea have the deciding vote and that they are the ones whom they should try to cater to better, much better than they have been doing so far.
Since the inception of the government of President Moon, Prime Minister Lee has spent much of his time visiting various countries of the world meeting with the Heads of Government of these countries on behalf of President Moon.
Lee is perhaps the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea visiting so many countries of the world meeting with the Heads of Government.
The countries Lee has so far visited include Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Brazil, Algeria, Panama, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tunisia, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Spain, Monaco, Kuwait, Colombia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Tanzania, Austria, Oman, and a number of other countries.
So who is Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon?
Here is his resume:
Lee was born in the Yeonggwang County of Jeollanam-do Province in 1952 as the eldest son of the seven children of his parents.
His family was not a very well-to-do one and reports say that when he attended Seoul National University he often stayed at the house of his friends and relatives—as his parents were unable to pay the high lodging rates in Seoul.
So, as soon as he graduated from Seoul National University he joined the Army and was assigned to the United States Army as a KATUSA (Korean augmentation to the United States Army).
Upon completion of his military service, Lee joined the popular opposition-oriented Korean-language newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo, was assigned to the Political Desk and in due course of time was sent to Tokyo as resident correspondent.
Lee is considered a successful journalist-turned politician. While with Dong-A, he covered the then opposition Democratic Party led by the late former President Kim Dae-jung.
Reports indicate that Kim Dae-jung liked Lee Nak-yun very well at the time and at one time Kim Dae-jung did not begin a press conference until Lee came belatedly.
In 2000, Lee won the 16th term National Assembly elections as a candidate of Kim Dae-jung’s New Millennium Democratic Party at Lee’s home town of Hampyeong-Yonggwang County of Jeollanam-do Province. In no time, Lee became the spokesman of the New Millennium Party.
In 2008, he again won the National Assembly elections from the same electoral district from United Democratic Party, the successor to the New Millennium Democratic Party.
Lee was so popular in his constituency that he won the elections four times in his electoral district in Hampyeong County even when his Democratic Party underwent a very difficult time due to the impeachment movements against the then President Roh Moo-hyun who led the Party.
In 2014, Lee ran for the 6th Local Elections which were held simultaneously across the country when he offered himself as a candidate for the governor of the Jeollnanam-ro Province as a candidate of the New Policies Democratic Alliance, and won.
On May 10, 2017, Lee was nominated by President Moon Jae-in 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-yeon, 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 US 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”. On December 13, Prime Minister Lee visited Pyeongchang, where the Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in February.
Name: Lee Nak-yon
Date of Birth: December 20, 1952 (Lunar calendar)
Place of Birth: Yeonggwang, Jeollanam-do
Family members: Kim Sook-hee (wife) and one son
March 1958 to February 1964: Graduated from Samdeok Elementary School in Beopseong, Yeonggwang, Jeollanam-do Province.
March 1964 to February 1967: Graduated from Buk Middle School in Gwangju, capital city of Jeollanam-do Province.
March 1967 to February 1970: Graduated from Jeil High School in Gwangju
March 1970 to February 1974: Graduated from the College of Law of Seoul National University with a Bachelor’s degree in Law
1979: Political reporter at leading independent (opposition-oriented) Korean-language daily, Donga Ilbo, published in Seoul.
1990: A Tokyo correspondent of Donga Ilbo.
1994: Deputy political editor at Donga Ilbo.
1997: Editorial writer at Donga Ilbo.
1999: Desk editor at the International Department at Donga Ilbo.
May 2000 to May 2004: Elected member of 16th-term National Assembly.
December 2000 to November 2001: Chairman of the 1st Policy Coordination Committee of the Democratic Party.
December 2000 to November 2001: Assistant Administrator at the Special Committee for the Inter-Korean Reconciliation, Cooperation, and Exchanges of the Democratic Party.
November 2001 to April 2002: Spokesman of the Democratic Party
September 2002 to December 2002: Spokesman of the 16th Presidential Election Task Force of the Democratic Party.
December 2002 to February 2003: Spokesman for President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.
March 2003 to September 2003: Representative Chief Secretary of the Democratic Party.
June 2004 to June 2006: Floor leader of the Democratic Party.
April 2007 to June 2007: Deputy Party Leader of the Democratic Party.
July 2007: Supreme Member of the Moderate United Democratic Party.
August 2007 to January 2008: Spokesman of the United New Democratic Party.
May 2004 to May 2008: Member of the 17th-term National Assembly.
May 2008 to May 2012: Member of the 18th-term National Assembly.
July 2008 to June 2010: Chairman of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee of the National Assembly.
October 2010 to May 2011: Secretary General of the Democratic Party.
September 2010 to May 2012: Chairman of the Jeollanam-do Provincial Committee of the Democratic Party.
May 2012 to May 2014: Elected as Member of the 19th-term National Assembly.