(ATTN: ADDS comments by nominee in paras 9-10)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, July 3 (Yonhap) -- Unification minister-designate Lee In-young is a four-term lawmaker known for leading the pro-democracy student movement in the 1980s as the inaugural leader of what was then the country's biggest college student organization.
Lee's designation is widely seen as reflecting President Moon Jae-in's intention to seek a breakthrough in the long-stalled inter-Korean relations amid North Korea's anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and Seoul's overall policy on cross-border relations.
Born in the central city of Cheongju in 1964, Lee graduated from Korea University.
While in university, he served as president of the university's student council as well as the inaugural president of what was then South Korea's biggest college students' group, Jeondaehyeop, or the National Council of Student Representatives.
Lee was one of the leading activists behind the 1987 nationwide democratic uprising against the authoritarian government of general-turned-president Chun Doo-hwan. The uprising led the Chun government to accept a direct presidential election, the beginning of South Korea's democratization.
Lee started his political career in 1999 at the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), the predecessor of the current ruling Democratic Party. He was elected to the National Assembly in 2004, 2012, 2016 and in this year's general elections.
As a lawmaker, he served as a member of the foreign affairs and unification committee and as chairman of the special committee for inter-Korean economic cooperation in 2018. He also served as floor leader of the Democratic Party from 2019-2020.
Due to his deep interest in inter-Korean relations, Lee has been talked about as a key candidate for unification minister after former minister Kim Yeon-chul resigned last month over worsened relations with Pyongyang following the North's demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office.
"I complied with the nomination process with the desperate urgency to reopen the way toward peace before the door closes," Lee told reporters at the National Assembly.
"We need to restart dialogue, and examine our process in realizing the commitments we made earlier, including cooperation on the humanitarian and diplomatic fronts that we can initiate right away," he said.
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