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Lee Jun-seok hints at presidential run

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : April 25, 2024 - 18:16

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Lee Jun-seok, the leader of the minor conservative New Reform Party,speaks during a press conference held at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club in central Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) Lee Jun-seok, the leader of the minor conservative New Reform Party,speaks during a press conference held at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club in central Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Lee Jun-seok, the leader of the minor conservative New Reform Party, hinted on Thursday at a future run for president of South Korea, though “he has a lot to learn before he gets there.”

The 39-year-old politician, who was elected in the April 10 parliamentary elections to represent a constituency in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, did not rule out the possibility when asked whether he has plans to run for president during a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Referring to the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster and 2022 Seoul Halloween crowd crush, he said they "helped me realize what the significance of becoming a president of a country is.”

“And if I were to be in that position going forward, I'd say there is still a lot for me to learn before I get there,” he added.

Lee mentioned the two tragedies where hundreds died to highlight the weight of taking on the role of president, as the person who has to appropriately handle such national emergencies. He also criticized former President Park Geun-hye and incumbent President Yoon Suk Yeol for the lack of “empathy" they showed in their respective responses at the time.

On some in the press and critics labeling him as “antifeminist,” Lee shot back, saying that some feminists in Korea are “very focused on inflammatory rhetoric." He explained that not fully agreeing with the feminist agenda here does not make him “antifeminist.”

“There is a tendency of feminist groups here, that they (label you) as antifeminist if you don't 100 percent agree with the feminist agenda or raise little questions about it,” Lee said.

“Certain groups actually used the word ‘hate’ to describe me or associated the word ‘hate’ with me, but as someone who has engaged in multiple social debates in the US, I know the gravity the word 'hate' holds.”

Lee has often been accused of using antifeminist rhetoric to gain the support of young male voters in their 20s and 30s. Lee said in a 2021 Facebook statement that the Democratic Party of Korea had lost the Seoul mayoral by-election that year because of its “fixation on a pro-women agenda,” and that the party had “underestimated the participation of men in their 20s and 30s.”