Breaking News
0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

'S.Korea's Bernie Sanders' tops presidential polls with talk of universal basic income

EconomySep 14, 2021 12:21AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung speaks during an interview with Reuters in Suwon, South Korea, December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Heo Ran

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean politician who once said he aspired to be a "successful Bernie Sanders" is leading the field to replace Moon Jae-in as president after rising to prominence with an aggressive pandemic response and a populist economic agenda.

Lee Jae-myung, the governor of Gyeonggi province, has led in many recent national polls and dominated the early rounds of the ruling liberal Democratic Party primary, including the latest voting over the weekend.

As governor, Lee advocated for universal basic income and instituted cash payments to all 24-year-old people for a year. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all province residents also received regular payments.

Under Lee, Gyeonggi also took aggressive steps to combat the pandemic, introducing restrictions on gatherings that were later adopted by the national government, raiding a church at the centre of a large outbreak, and imposing a controversial requirement that all foreign residents be tested.

His outsider image was once seen as a liability in the face of establishment competitors with closer ties to the outgoingMoon.

But with many South Koreans disillusioned by runaway housing prices, a poor employment outlook for young people and a string of corruption scandals, that populist message has driven him to the head of the pack as he looks to blunt conservatives' efforts to capitalise on voter discontent.

Lee no longer compares himself to Sanders, the progressive senator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. president, and has expressed willingness to adjust his policies to avoid strife while embracing "compromise and consensus".

But he still casts himself as someone who will take on the establishment - which at the moment is largely his own party.

"Only politicians who have the courage and driving force to put up with the resistance and backlash from the establishment can keep and fulfil promises and achieve results," Lee said during a primary in the eastern province of Gangwon on Sunday. "And I have never made a promise that I could not keep."

EXPANDING WELFARE STATE

Born to an impoverished farming family in a remote mountain village in the country's southeast, Lee, 56, attributes his focus on economic equality to an early life as a child labourer in chemical factories that left him with impaired hearing and a wrist deformity.

When elected mayor of Seongnam, one of the largest cities in Gyeonggi, in 2010, he initiated a plan to establish a new, larger public hospital with unprecedented numbers of negative pressure rooms and intensive care beds. The facility now serves as a national COVID-19 centre and has treated more than 3,000 patients.

"Keeping people from disasters and infectious diseases by providing public medical service is one of the government's most fundamental duties, and my political career began from there," Lee told Reuters in December.

A longtime advocate of universal basic income, Lee vowed to provide 1 million won ($850) to all citizens and another 1 million to people aged 19-29 every year if he takes office.

He also pledged to boost housing supply by building more than 2.5 million homes, including 1 million to be distributed under a "basic home" scheme, aimed at allowing non-homeowners to live in high-quality public housing at low prices for up to 30 years.

To bankroll the programmes, Lee proposed a carbon tax and a national land tax scheme to increase taxes for all property holders and cut transaction costs.

"I will adopt universal basic income as a national policy to pave the way for a grand transition from a low burden, low welfare state to a medium burden, medium welfare state, while minimising tax resistance," he told a news conference in late July.

FROM OUTSIDER TO FRONTRUNNER

Lee, who came in third during the Democratic Party's last presidential primary in 2017, has been dogged by personal controversy while in office, including allegations of an affair with an actress, which he has denied.

As proof of their alleged relationship, the actress said the governor had a large mole on his body. In 2018, Lee publicly undertook an examination to refute that claim, with doctors concluding he had no such mark.

A lawsuit by the actress demanding 300 million won ($255,000) in compensation from Lee is pending in court.

Lee's rise has been driven chiefly by young and politically independent South Koreans who propelled Moon to victory in 2017 but have since grown disillusioned.

This year Lee has pulled past party bigwigs such as former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, who were seen as favourites of insiders seeking a trusted nominee who can protect Moon's political legacy.

The conservative opposition, meanwhile, remains in disarray with no one emerging as a potent contender yet.

"Despite mainstream Democrats' efforts to keep him at bay, Lee's experience and outsider image cater to many voters' craving for a candidate who can get the job done," said Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Myongji University in Seoul.

($1 = 1,175.9000 won)

'S.Korea's Bernie Sanders' tops presidential polls with talk of universal basic income
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (4)
Ominous Owl
Ominous Owl Sep 15, 2021 12:19AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Preservation of the weak. This is what happens when there are no wars. Society starts to decay with the rotten apples.
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Sep 14, 2021 8:43AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Trigger words for the conservative snowflakes.
dar dar
dar dar Sep 13, 2021 11:10PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
once a wonderful country full of small businesses people busting their ********oh well
Jokers R Us
Jokers R Us Sep 13, 2021 7:10PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Stop the socialism!!!
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email