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Populist governor in South Korea seen leading in presidential poll

Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi Province, is leading in a new presidential poll, according to South Korea's National Barometer Survey. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi Province, is leading in a new presidential poll, according to South Korea's National Barometer Survey. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

April 22 (UPI) -- A politician once dubbed the Bernie Sanders of South Korea is holding a slight lead in a new poll ahead of the country's presidential election in 2022, a survey showed.

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung is leading potential rival Yoon Seok-youl, a conservative, in the poll conducted as part of the country's National Barometer Survey, News 1 reported Thursday.

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Lee has been described as a left-wing populist and has called for universal basic income.

The presidential poll, conducted by local firms Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research and Hankook Research, surveyed 1,009 South Koreans age 18 or older from Monday to Wednesday.

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Lee received a favorability rating of 25%, while Yoon, a former prosecutor general, received 22%.

The results come after conservatives made a strong showing at the Seoul and Busan mayoral elections. In each city, opposition conservatives won by a landslide in the wake of a real estate scandal involving government employees.

The Seoul mayoral race is widely seen as a bellwether for the presidential election March 9.

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The National Barometer Survey showed the majority of South Koreans are ready for political change.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Nak-yon, who said last week in a Facebook post he would "stand by President Moon Jae-in" at all cost, received only an 8% favorability rating in the same poll.

About 37% of survey respondents said they favor the main opposition conservatives being restored to office, while 23% said they would support a "third party" taking power.

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Only 31% of respondents said a candidate of the ruling Democratic Party should be elected next year.

Lee Jae-myung appeared to have an edge in the poll, but a different survey conducted by local firm Realmeter showed Yoon was by far the favorite candidate.

The Realmeter poll showed Yoon had a 51.6% favorability rating and Lee Jae-myung had a 32.3% rating, Hankyoreh reported Wednesday.

Moon has apologized for recent incidents, including the land scandal and rising home prices that critics have said were the result of his administration's policies.

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