Supporters of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee join together for campaign group

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Supporters of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee join together for campaign group

Supporters of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung (center) pose for a group photograph in the main hall of the Korean Federation of SMEs in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday. [YONHAP]

Supporters of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung (center) pose for a group photograph in the main hall of the Korean Federation of SMEs in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday. [YONHAP]

 
A campaign group supporting Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung's probable presidential candidacy officially launched with a public debate at the main hall of the Korean Federation of SMEs in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday.
 
Called the “National Assembly Forum for Growth and Fairness in Korea,” the campaign group counts 35 sitting National Assembly members from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), including legislative veterans such as Rep. An Min-suk and Rep. Cho Jeong-sik who have been elected to their seats four and five times, respectively.
 
Addressing the core themes emphasized in the new campaign group’s name during his opening remarks at its inaugural debate, Lee said, “Throughout history, fairness has been the most important value of communities, while growth is the remaining task of our age in our current society.”
 
Lee told reporters after the event that he was encouraged by the participation of several sitting legislators “who share his belief” that “opportunities should be increased to induce continued growth and allow everyone to share in that growth.”
 
The sizeable presence of sitting National Assembly representatives at the campaign group’s launch also signified Lee’s progress in winning over members of the DP who sit in the legislature.
 
Long considered an outsider to the dominant faction of the DP, which stands behind President Moon Jae-in, Lee has courted DP legislators over the past year with meals to support his bid to become the ruling party’s candidate in the presidential race next year.
 
After he was acquitted by the Supreme Court of violating the Public Official Election Act in July, Lee has consistently hosted lunches and dinners for National Assembly representatives in order to overcome his position as a provincial governor outside the main halls of power.
 
One legislator in Lee’s camp who was involved in recruiting members for the campaign group said, “The majority of those who joined have eaten with Gov. Lee before. Through meals, they came to agree with Gov. Lee’s policy ideas and became closer to him.”
 
While he has succeeded in recruiting some DP veterans who normally would have supported late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon’s candidacy, such as three-time legislator Park Hong-keun, 25 out of 35 DP legislators in Lee’s camp are first-time National Assembly representatives.
 
In contrast to Lee’s group, the camps of former prime ministers Lee Nak-yon and Chung Sye-kyun, who are both running separate campaigns for their party’s presidential nomination, are mostly comprised of party bigwigs and more experienced legislators.
 
Gov. Lee’s public ambitions stand in stark contrast to those of former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, another presidential hopeful whose own campaign group of supporting legal professionals and academics has formed largely without his direct involvement.
 
While Yoon’s acquaintances have said that he will make no public announcement about his political future until late June, recent polling suggests that Lee now leads by 6 percent over the tight-lipped Yoon.
 
According to a survey conducted jointly by M-Brain, Kstat and Korea Research from Monday to Wednesday, 25 percent of respondents support Gov. Lee, followed by Yoon at 19 percent and former Prime Minister Lee at 10 percent.
 
While Lee has maintained support ranging from 24 to 26 percent, Yoon’s support ratings have slowly fallen each week from a high of 23 percent in late April.
 
BY KIM JUN-YOUNG, MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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