Impact Player: Lee Nak-yon
May 11, 2017Mr. Lee Nak-yon is pictured above, second from the left.
Who is he?
Lee Nak-yon is the prime minister of the Republic of Korea under the new Moon Jae-in government and formerly the governor of South Jeolla province.
As the governor of South Jeolla province, he has demonstrated his administrative capabilities, having received an award from the Ministry of Employment and Labor in 2016 for raising the number of employed in the manufacturing sector in South Jeolla province to more than 100,000 for the first time in 17 years and for attracting US$2 billion worth of investment from 157 firms and another award in 2014 for the best policy in the general elections when he ran for governor of South Jeolla province. The latter policy, called “100 won taxi,” allows people to pay only 100 Korean won for a cab ride to the nearest bus stop and the remaining fare will be paid for by the local government. As part of his presidential election campaign promise, President Moon had expressed that he would expand this pro-ordinary citizen policy nationwide.
Lee has had experiences in diverse areas. Before being elected as the governor of South Jeolla province in 2014, Lee was a four-term lawmaker in the predecessor parties of the current liberal Together Democratic Party from 2000 to 2014 and a spokesperson for former President Roh Moo-hyun after the latter was elected president in 2002. He is also known to be the final proofreader for President Roh’s acceptance speech. He first entered politics in 2000 after gaining trust from former President Kim Dae-jung. Lee was involved participated in diplomacy-related activities while serving in various positions in the Korea-Japan Parliamentary Friendship Association since 2004, the highest being its vice-chairman in 2010. Before stepping into the political arena, he worked as a journalist for Dong-A Daily from 1979 for 21 years which included serving as the chief of world news section in late 1999, editor in 1997, and as Tokyo correspondent for three years from December 1989. Lee earned his bachelor’s degree in law from Seoul National University in 1974.
Why has he been in the news?
Lee’s nomination to the prime ministerial position is the first announcement made by the new South Korean president and the first to be made personally by the president himself.
Media reports are pointing to the nomination of Lee as signalling the start of tangpyeong politics, or fair politics, that is not skewed toward a particular political party but instead embraces all opinions by appointing personnel from other parties or regions. Moon hails from South Gyeongsang province while Lee is from South Jeolla province.
According to Moon, Governor Lee is not only the “right person” to lead the new administration’s goal of achieving national unity and reconciliation as he has had rich experience and insight about Korean society and the world accumulated from his 21 years of experience as a journalist, 14 years as a lawmaker, and three years as a provincial governor.
What can we expect from him?
In South Korea, the prime minister’s position is centered on administrative duties while the president holds most of the executive power. According to media reports, the Blue House believes Lee’s experience and accomplishments as a governor will allow him to make valuable contributes to important domestic policies on unemployment and ordinary citizen-related policies.
Lee has expressed his opinions on South Korea’s foreign policy under the new Moon administration. Immediately after voting ended and before his nomination, Lee wrote in a message titled “To Our New President” that South Korea needs to re-establish itself as a “confident peaceful country” by improving relations with North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia immediately.
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