“I am a defector. I am one of those displaced people from North Korea. As such, I feel obligated to represent them,” said 44-year-old Lee Ae Ran in her statement on why she is running in the 18th general elections.
Lee Ae Ran is the first North Korean defector to run for the National Assembly and is ranked fourth on the proportional representation candidate list of the National Security Party for the Displaced.
Lee is a prominent female insurance agent and the first female defector to earn a master’s degree. She entered politics when she joined the National Security Party for the Displaced as a spokesperson.
In North Korea, Lee Ae Ran worked as a food hygiene manger for the Science and Technology Committee. In August 1997, she defected with her four-month old son, leaving her husband behind. She arrived in South Korea via China and Vietnam in October of the same year.
“I know it is laughable that a North Korean defector is running for a seat in the South Korean National Assembly,” the candidate admitted during a phone interview with Daily NK on March 28.
She added, “In North Korea, if you come from a bad family background, there is nothing you can do about it. However, things are different in South Korea because it is a free, democratic country.”
The candidate said she entered the race because she felt a sense of duty to those who have defected and have been displaced from North Korea, and because of her commitment to national security issues.
Lee Ae Ran said she knows North Korea very well and has some ideas about how to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea. Moreover, Lee stressed that she is the person who can best understand the concerns of those displaced from North Korea and knows how to formulate policies for them.
Just like other candidates, Lee is busy promoting her campaign. She plans to introduce her party’s policies at a debate for candidates on the proportional representation list on April 6.
The National Security Party for the Displaced places a high importance on national security, and is committed to representing the concerns of the displaced from North Korea. Around eight thousand displaced people and fifty North Korean defectors have joined the party as members. For the 18th general elections, the party is fielding four candidates for the proportional representation list and two for local constituencies.
Meanwhile, 39-year-old North Korean defector Yun Seung Gil also registered as a proportional representation candidate for the Grand National Party, but failed to win the party’s nomination. He gave up his bid to run for office.