Photo: The Democratic Party's announcement of Lee Jae-myung's nomination. Credit: The Democratic Party of Korea.
Following the third "Superweek" of the Democratic Party primary 민주당 경선 held on October 10, Gyeonggi-do Province Governor Lee Jae-myung 이재명 경기도지사 won the party's nomination to run in the next presidential election to be held in March 9, 2022. Lee scored a convincing victory by winning 50.3% of the total votes, prevailing over the former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon 이낙연 전 총리 who earned 39.1%. Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae 추미애 전 법무부장관 came in third with 9.0%.
Governor Lee thanked his supporters and promised a strong reform drive: "This presidential election is the final battle against the corrupt holders of power . . . Time for a 'red card' and exit for the people who intervene in politics through prosecutors, trade trial results through judges, hoard profit through construction companies, and oppress artists with a blacklist." (See TBR's profile, "Lee Jae-myung's Stormy Rise to the Top.")
Lee's run through the primary, which began on September 4, was unexpectedly strong. Before the voting began, there were concerns whether the pro-Moon Jae-in faction 친문, the mainstream of the Democratic Party, would sign on with Lee Jae-myung, who previously ran against Moon in the 2017 Democratic primary. Yet Lee won over most of the pro-Moon voters by recruiting key members of the pro-Moon faction, such as Assembly Members Park Ju-min 박주민, Lee Tan-hee 이탄희 and Lee Jae-jeong 이재정. Entering the final week of the primary, Lee only lost one regional race in Gwangju/Jeollanam-do Province 광주/전라남도, where Lee Nak-yeon - former Governor of Jeollanam-do - barely managed to prevail, 47.1% to 47%.
On the flip side, the primary is a stunning rebuke on the former Prime Minister. Although Lee Nak-yeon had a commanding lead in the polls as recently as April 2020, a series of missteps - including a suggestion that Moon pardon the imprisoned former conservative presidents - doomed his campaign. (See previous coverage, "What Happened to Lee Nak-yeon?")
In the later part of the primary, Lee Nak-yeon made a last-ditch effort to attack Lee Jae-myung with the Daejang-dong 대장동 real estate development scandal, arguing the scandal may damage the Gyeonggi-do Governor to a point that the main election would be lost. It worked somewhat, but not nearly well enough. Lee Nak-yeon did make up ground in the third round of online voting, in which he won 62.4% of the votes, but lost decisively in Gyeonggi-do Province (59.3% to 30.5%) and Seoul (51.5% to 36.5%).
People Power Party 국민의힘, the main conservative opposition, will nominate its candidate on November 5.