Lee Jae-myung

South Korean politician (born 1964)

Lee Jae-myung (Hangul: 이재명; born 22 December 1964) is a South Korean politician and lawyer. He has been a member of the National Assembly since 2022. In August 2022, he was elected Leader of the Democratic Party.

Lee Jae-myung
Lee in 2022
Leader of the Democratic Party
Assumed office
28 August 2022
Preceded byWoo Sang-ho
Member of the National Assembly
Assumed office
2 June 2022
Preceded bySong Young-gil
ConstituencyIncheon Gyeyang B
35th Governor of Gyeonggi Province
In office
1 July 2018 – 25 October 2021
Preceded byNam Kyung-pil
Succeeded byOh Byeong-kwon (acting)
Kim Dong-yeon
Mayor of Seongnam
In office
1 July 2010 – 15 March 2018
Preceded byLee Dae-yup
Succeeded byEun Su-mi
Personal details
Born (1964-12-22) 22 December 1964 (age 59)
Andong, North Kyongsang, South Korea
Political partyDemocratic
Kim Hye-kyung
(m. 1991)
EducationChung-Ang University (LLB)
Gachon University (MPA)
  • Politician
  • author
WebsiteOffice website
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Jaemyeong
McCune–ReischauerYi Chaemyŏng

Lee was Mayor of Seongnam, the tenth largest city in South Korea, from 2010 to 2018. He is a member of the centre-liberal Democratic Party. In 2018, he became Governor of Gyeonggi Province. He became well known during his time as governor for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]

In July 2021, Lee announced his candidacy for President of South Korea in the 2022 election.[2] He was seen as the front-runner for the presidency, leading in many polls until late 2021.[3] He lost the election to conservative former prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol by a small amount of votes in March 2022.[4]

Personal life


Lee was born on 22 December 1964 in Andong, the fifth of seven children.[5] He was raised in poverty.[6]

As a child, he worked at a rubber factory illegally as he was not old enough to work.[6] He hurt his finger during a work accident.[6] In a second workplace injury, an industrial press crushed his wrist joint. The injury was untreated and caused a disability in his arm.[7][8] He is registered as a disabled person.[9]

He studied at Chung-Ang University and Gachon University. He became a lawyer after graduating. In 1991, he married Kim Hye-kyung. They have two children.

Mayor of Seongnam


As mayor of Seongnam, he was known for creating the city's social welfare program.[10] From 2010 to 2014, Lee announced a moratorium on payments of debt. Some criticized Lee for this and accused him of creating a political stunt. Critics said the moratorium was not needed because the city had never been forced to repay the debt immediately.[11][12]

At the same time, he used the money saved to expand social welfare programs, such as offering a universal basic income for young people, free school uniforms and free postnatal care.[13]

Lee was also known for banning dog meat and to shut down dog slaughtering facilities in Moran Market.[14][15] In 2016, Lee signed an agreement with shop owners that ended the display and slaughter of live dogs at the market.[16]

Governor of Gyeonggi Province


After losing his first presidential campaign, Lee ran for Governor of Gyeonggi Province.[17] Lee became known for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic as governor.[18]

Lee announced a special order for all foreigners working in Gyeonggi Province to be tested for COVID-19.[19][20] Seoul announced similar policies but changed them to recommendation after facing criticism.[21][22]

National Assembly


On 7 May 2022, Lee declared his candidacy in the June 2022 elections running for a district vacant seat in Incheon for the National Assembly.[23] Lee won the seat in the elections on 1 June 2022. Afterwards, he was elected as the leader of the Democratic Party of Korea on 28 August and became the opposition leader.[24]

In 2023, Lee launched a 24-day hunger strike to protest President Yoon Suk Yeol's response to Japan’s release of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power, his handling of the country’s post-pandemic economy and his strict policies on North Korea.[25]

Presidential campaigns


While he was mayor of Seongnam, Lee ran for President of South Korea in 2017 after former president Park Geun-hye was impeached on corruption allegations. In the Democratic Party's primary election, Lee placed third behind Moon Jae-in, the former party chairman, and Ahn Hee-jung, the governor of South Chungcheong Province.[26][27] Lee is part of the progressive wing in the Democratic Party.[28][29]

Lee visiting Gangwon during his 2022 presidential campaign

Lee declared his candidacy in the 2022 presidential election in July 2021.[30]

Lee became the nominee of the Democratic Party of Korea on 10 October 2021.[31][32] Lee won a majority of the votes in the primary and made it directly to the presidential election without a runoff.[33]

In the general election, Lee lost to Yoon Suk Yeol of the People Power Party, 47.8% to 48.6%.[34]

Corruption investigation


Since late 2022, Lee has been at the center of a corruption investigation. It is said that while he was mayor of Seongnam, he would receive donations from businesses and did them favors. On 10 January 2023, he went to the prosecutors office for questioning. This also marked the first time that an opposition leader was brought in for questioning regarding a criminal case, following the South Korean transition into democracy.[35]

In February 2023, a motion for the arrest of Lee Jae-myung, which was reapproved by the prosecution, was rejected by the National Assembly, however with a large number of rebel votes within the party.[36]

In September 2023, Seoul prosecutors pushed for another motion to arrest Lee on corruption charges for giving special favours to a land developer in Seongnam. On 21 September, the Democratic-majority National Assembly approved the motion, with a 149-136 vote, with dozens of his own party members voting to arrest him.[37] On that day, he was given an arrest warrant, the first time an opposition leader was arrested since the country's democratic transition.[38][39] As a result, Lee went on a hunger strike in protest against the charges and President Yoon Suk Yeol, accusing him of using the criminal justice system to scare political opponents.[40]

Lee was released after the Seoul Central District Court rejected the arrest warrant on 27 September 2023.[41]

Assassination attempt


On 2 January 2024, Lee was stabbed in the neck during a visit to Busan.[42] Lee suffered a "one-centimetre wound on his neck" with minor bleeding.[43] Lee was hospitalized at Pusan National University Hospital.[44] He was then transferred to Seoul National University Hospital with "non life-threatening" injuries.[45] Lee had emergency surgery later in the day and was in recovery under critical condition hours later.[46]


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  7. 최종수정 2015.05.15. 16:24:38, 한림국제대학원대학교 정치경영연구소 | 기사입력 2015 05 13 13:49:08 (13 May 2015). "이재명 "대선 후보? 스피커가 커져 좋다"". pressian.com (in Korean). Retrieved 22 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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