A 26-year-old Harvard graduate grabbed the media spotlight Wednesday after making a surprise debut as a member of the Grand National Party’s leadership council.
Handpicked by Rep. Park Geun-hye, the party’s chief and strongest presidential candidate, Lee Jun-seok is by far the youngest on the 11-member council launched Tuesday, and the youngest ever to hold a leadership position in the history of the conservative ruling party.
Park, introducing Lee to party members Tuesday, expressed hopes that he could act as a bridge between the GNP and young voters in their 20s and 30s and help create policies for them.
Lee, after graduating from Harvard University in the United States, started an educational volunteer group in 2007 which offers tutoring to lower-income children in person or over the internet. He set up his own IT venture this year called Classe Studio.
“When I informed (people around me) of my decision to join (the council), many asked whether I will be working as a ‘Twitter-alba,’” Lee said during the inaugural meeting of the council, referring to part-timers hired to write positive tweets on a specific subject. A GNP candidate in the Seoul mayoral by-election in October was accused of hiring “albas” to write positive postings about her on social networking services, including Twitter.
“I have no intention of playing such a role,” Lee said.
He looked little daunted by the presence of other council members ― some of them old enough to his grandfather ― reporters, TV cameramen and photo journalists that filled the meeting room.
“I will speak out for what I have to say and will work to create real policies, not just from the quota allotted to people in their 20s and 30s but from my own experience and passion,” he said.
During the meeting, he was named as chief of the party’s in-house committee on a cyber attack scandal, which dealt a devastating blow to the already-unpopular party. An aide of one of its lawmakers is accused of masterminding the attack on the National Election Commission’s website during the Oct. 26 by-elections.
Political observers said the choice of Lee reflects Park’s efforts to win the hearts of young voters, after recent by-elections revealed widespread disillusionment among younger generations with the conservative party. It is also part of her strategy to counter the Ahn Cheol-soo phenomenon.
Ahn, a software mogul revered by many young Koreans, surpassed Park to lead in polls of potential presidential candidates, even though he hasn’t said he would run.
Yet, some, even within the party, are critical, implying that the appointment of Lee is just for show.
“When Lee stepped in, there was a commotion among the media to take good photos of him. I think he was hired to distract public attention away” from the wrongful appointment of Kim Chong-in, said GNP Rep. Chun Yu-ok. She criticized the choice as a council member of Kim, a 71-year-old former Cheong Wa Dae secretary in economic affairs, who has been jailed for accepting bribes.
Despite the doubts, Lee said Wednesday that he would push to clear all suspicions regarding the attack on the election watchdog website.
“The committee will begin its activities in earnest, after hearing the final results of the prosecutorial investigation into the case,” he said. He added he will include ordinary people in the committee.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org