(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments, background info in paras 7-8, 14-15; TRIMS headline; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung officially launched his high-profile presidential campaign Thursday, pledging to alleviate inequality between the powerful and the weak.
The front-runner by a wide margin among the nine contenders of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), Lee announced his bid to run in the March 9 presidential election through a prerecorded video, released on YouTube and other online platforms, in consideration of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"Through the politics of moderating the privilege and foul play-driven desires of the powerful and embracing the lives of the weak, (the country) must move toward a world of unity where everybody prospers together," Lee said.
"Society has its future only when people or regions don't get to suffer a loss for abiding by the rules, the opportunities are fair, and a reasonable reward is given as the result of fair competition."
Lee pinpointed growing inequality and social polarization in the nation, saying they hold back economic growth and quicken economic depression.
He pledged to implement a comprehensive economic revitalization plan to transform the economy into a future-oriented structure and reaffirmed his signature policy to adopt universal basic income.
"I will immediately launch a powerful economic revival plan that will turn a crisis of paradigm shift into a chance for another leap forward," Lee said. "Moving into innovative future-oriented economic industries, (I) will increase the creation of quality jobs and replenish the state finance to lay the ground for a country with universal welfare."
He added that "by introducing basic income ... (I will) build a society where anyone can enjoy the minimum economic prosperity and pursue jobs they want."
The governor of Gyeonggi, home to more than 13 million people, has long maintained his solid lead over eight other presidential runners for the DP.
According to a recent survey released by Realmeter last Thursday, Lee was the second most favored pick for president with 22.8 percent of support, following the front-runner, ex-Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl who had 32.3 percent.
Lee was well ahead of DP's another leading contender, ex-Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who came in third with 8.4 percent of support.
The governor, however, faces a daunting task of winning the backing from the DP's mainstream for his bid to win the party nomination for presidency.
Running against Moon Jae-in in the DP's presidential primary for the 2017 presidential election, Lee made an enemy of DP members backing Moon, who went on to win the party primary and eventually the presidential election.
In a move widely seen as aimed at countering Lee's predominance, two DP presidential hopefuls, Chung Sye-kyun and Lee Kwang-jae, announced earlier this week that they will unify their candidacies by next Monday.
A labor rights lawyer, Lee entered politics in 2007 and became the mayor of Seongnam, just southeast of Seoul, in 2010 by winning the seat in his second bid. He stepped down as Seongnam mayor in his second term in 2018 to run for the governorship of Gyeonggi and became the first DP-affiliated governor in about 20 years.
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