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Justice Party chief vows major push for ‘minor’ agendas

Rep. Lee Jeong-mi, the newly appointed chair of the far-left Justice Party, on Monday vowed to bring “minor agendas,” such as issues involving gender disparity, sexual minorities and farmers, to South Korea’s mainstream politics.

“Issues like the gender gap, temporary employees, farmers or sexual minorities have been considered as accessories in the field of South Korean politics,” Lee told reporters at a luncheon, nearly two weeks into the job.

“We will not be a party offering a stopgap measure. We seek to change the fundamental systems (to address them),” she said. 

Justice Party chief Rep. Lee Jeong-mi speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)
Justice Party chief Rep. Lee Jeong-mi speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)

A labor activist-turned-first-term lawmaker, Lee was chosen on July 11 to succeed Sim Sang-jeung as leader of the far-left party, which, despite being the smallest of the five main parties in South Korea, enjoys outsized public support, particularly among young voters.

The Justice Party garnered 6.7 percent of support in the latest Realmeter poll, ranking fourth. The People’s Party with 40 seats came fifth, with 5.1 percent of support.

On LGBT rights, Rep. Lee said it is important for all politicians and policymakers to keep in mind that it is a “life issue” for some, not a matter of public sentiment. It is important that human rights of all South Korean citizens be respected, whether one likes it or not, she stressed.

The politician also expressed discontent with other opposition parties’ rejection of including the Justice Party in consultative meetings, referring to President Moon Jae-in’s proposal for an all-party consultative meeting with the government.

“The multilateral consultative body proposed by the Moon administration should be operating but is currently not, because some parties disagree on our inclusion in the group. However, that is not what people want. We need to represent more diverse opinions here at the parliament,” she said.

President Moon and floor leaders of the five parties had previously agreed to create a consultative panel for across-the-aisle dialogue on key state affair issues. But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party rejected the inclusion of the Justice Party, citing that only negotiating bodies at the parliament should take part.

The progressive Justice Party currently holds six seats at the National Assembly, so it is not recognized as a parliamentary negotiation bloc, which requires 20.

Lee also stressed the importance of reorganizing the electoral system amid preparations for the local and mayoral elections slated for next June.

“One of the reasons why a majority of people in Korea are ignorant of politics is because they believe their voices are not heard or represented here at the parliament. Changing the electoral system as a whole would bring in more attention,” she said.

By Jo He-rim (