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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 12)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:07 October 12, 2021

Beset DPK candidate
Lee should prove his caliber as presidential contender

Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung was elected presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), late Sunday, by garnering 50.29 percent of the total votes in the party's primaries. With a majority of support, he snatched the party's ticket for the presidential election slated for March next year, without a runoff.

It is Lee's second presidential bid since he was defeated by President Moon Jae-in in the primary contest in 2017. Lee faces numerous challenges ahead in his bid to win the crucial election. First, despite earlier expectations of a landslide victory, he barely eked out a slight majority of votes in the primaries, after his rival Lee Nak-yon beat him with 62.3 percent of the votes in the third round of electorate voting.

Lee Nak-yon camp called for a runoff, claiming Lee failed to win a majority, garnering only 49.32 percent of the votes, a demand rebuffed by the party's election committee. The former prime minister even indicated the governor could possibly be imprisoned ahead of the election due to his alleged involvement in a massive land development scandal. Such a "judiciary risk" will likely continue to haunt Lee in the presidential race.

Governor Lee has been attempting to dodge the buck by dubbing the development project in Seongnam a corruption scandal mainly involving members of the opposition People Power Party (PPP). Yet Lee should bear in mind that his humiliating defeat in the third round of electorate voting indicates the need for him to deal with the issue more seriously and humbly. Among other things, he should proactively cooperate with the prosecution's investigation of the scandal.

As he has become the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Lee should come up with a package of policies and visions for the nation and people. Lee has been pursuing "universal welfare" as a major presidential campaign pledge that features providing a universal basic income to all citizens, thus easing economic inequality by boosting justice in distribution. Lee also needs to come clear on the lingering suspicion surrounding his family affairs and relationship with an actress.

Opponents have been denouncing Lee's policies as "populism." He should explain this to the people. Lee also needs to offer up his vision so that the nation can sharpen its competitiveness in preparation for the forthcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution and level up its state prestige since entering the rank of advanced countries.

Recent polls show that more than a majority of the people want a change in power, meaning Lee stands less of a chance of winning the presidential election in competition with the PPP, whoever its candidate may be. Given this, he should submit more specific and feasible policies in various areas, such as real estate in particular. Lee also needs to clarify his vision toward the peace process on the Korean Peninsula in light of the floating of the idea of an inter-Korean summit and a declaration to end the Korean War.
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