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Lee Jun-seok wins surprise victory to head main opposition as youngest-ever leader

Politics 11:09 June 11, 2021

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- Lee Jun-seok, a 36-year-old politician with no experience as a lawmaker, won a victory Friday to take the helm of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) as the youngest-ever leader of a mainstream party in modern South Korean politics.

Lee was announced the victor in the party's convention to elect its new chairman to be in charge of steering the biggest conservative party through next year's presidential election in March.

Lee secured 43.8 percent of the ballots cast online and by telephone by party members and private citizens from Monday-Thursday, defeating his four established senior rivals, including two high-profile former party floor leaders.

This photo provided by the National Assembly Press Corps shows Lee Jun-seok during a debate on June 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

This photo provided by the National Assembly Press Corps shows Lee Jun-seok during a debate on June 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

With no record of serving a parliamentary term, Lee entered the PPP's leadership race as an underdog.

But his surprise ascent in opinion polls, followed by his victory in the leadership election's primary in late May, stole the spotlight in the media, which hailed Lee's advance as mirroring voters' call for a reform of the conservative party as well as the broader political establishment.

A Harvard graduate, Lee first joined the biggest conservative party in 2011 as a member of an interim emergency leadership council at the age of 26 under the auspice of then party leader Park Geun-hye.

He later became a reform icon for the conservative bloc for his unwavering criticism of Park, who went on to become president but faced impeachment in 2017 over corruption charges.

Lee, however, came under criticism from not only outside the party but within his own party for his campaigning against the PPP's affirmative action for young or female members.

His landslide victory dealt a crushing blow to two established senior party members who ran in the leadership election -- former four-term lawmaker Na Kyung-won and incumbent five-term Rep. Joo Ho-young, both of whom served as floor leaders.

Lee's two-year term will begin immediately.


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