Lee Jae-myung hopes to become South Korea’s “first former laborer President”

Posted on : 2017-01-24 16:59 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Seongnam Mayor is currently second behind Moon Jae-in among Minjoo Party presidential hopefuls
 at an event where he announced his presidential candidacy
at an event where he announced his presidential candidacy

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung threw his hat in the ring for the presidential race on Jan. 23, declaring his plans to become “the Republic of Korea’s first laborer to become President.”

Lee delivered the message in a press conference at the Orient Watch Factory in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where he went to work for two years as a 15-year-old in 1979.

“We are facing a diplomatic and security crisis because of incompetent and irresponsible pro-Japanese, dictatorial, and corrupt forces, and the vices of inequality and unfairness are thwarting opportunities for all South Koreans,” Lee declared.

“I am now beginning a great journey to sweep away the darkness and despair and make this a fair country,” he continued.

In his declaration, Lee said he hoped to make “a country where the strong and the weak are both equal before the law.”

“There will be no pardoning of [President] Park Geun-hye or [Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman] Lee Jae-yong under a Lee Jae-myung administration,” he added.

Stressing the need to disintegrate the current chaebol system to achieve a fair economy, Lee said, “I will accept the blows from fighting the Samsung family, and I believe the people of South Korea will choose the victor.”

“Once Lee Jae-yong has been confirmed guilty, he will be forced to give back his illegal assets through a Lee Jae-myung RICO Act,” he added, referring to the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for confiscating assets associated with organized crime.

Lee also stressed his commitment to ensuring a basic income through higher corporate taxes and a new land ownership tax.

“This ‘Lee Jae-myung New Deal growth policy’ is the only way to rescue our economy from its current downturn,” he said.

Lee went on to announce plans for “autonomous, national interest-centered balanced diplomacy” on diplomatic and security issues, including the reversal of plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, the transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, nullification of the Dec. 2015 comfort women agree with Japan, and an end to South Korea and Japan‘s General Security of Military Information Agreement.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung embraces his mother Koo Ho-myung on Jan. 23
Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung embraces his mother Koo Ho-myung on Jan. 23

Lee, who currently ranks second in support among potential Minjoo Party candidates, signaled confidence in his ability to win the primary.

“Opinion polls are about passive responses. The primaries are about action and choosing the right person,” he said.

Lee’s history as a laborer was a running theme in his declaration. At one point he recalled experiencing two industrial accidents during his teenage years as a factory worker.

“After graduating elementary school in the spring of 1976, I held my mother’s hand and headed to the factory, wearing not a clean school uniform but a gray, grease-stained work uniform,” he remembered.

“Today, that boy laborer stands in the factory of those grim memories with the goal of becoming the Republic of Korea’s first former laborer President,” he said before going on to introduce his mother and other family members.

“My dream of ending old abuses and building a fair country is also the dream of all of you in the public,” Lee concluded. “I will do my best and leave the result up to you, the people.”

By Ha Eo-young and Um Ji-won, staff reporters

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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