Lee Jae-Jeong rose to prominence as an academic and theologian, assuming several related positions in the field of human rights before turning to politics. As the current Minister for Unification, he is a member of the National Security Council, broadly responsible for South Korean engagement with North Korea, and importantly, responsible for the implementation of the administration’s ambitious unification policy.
Lee graduated from Korea University with Bachelor of Arts in German Literature, then went on to attain a Master of Divinity from St. Michael’s Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts (Religious Studies) from the University of Manitoba, Canada. He then proceeded to obtain a Doctorate of Theology from the Toronto School of Theology, (Trinity College) University of Toronto, Canada.
As an academic and theologian, he achieved notable success. In 1994 he became President of Sungkonghoe University, serving a six-year term and in 1997 became Vice-Chairperson of Korean University Council for Social Service. From the 1970s until the late 1990s he served as a member of several prominent boards in the Anglican Church.
He has published several books in theology including Korea’s Church Movement and Theological Practice, Translation of Introduction to Theology by Owen C. Thomas, and The 100 Years of the Anglican Church of Korea.
The roles which Lee fulfilled in academia and as part of his theological duties demonstrated an early aptitude for political leadership. He became a Chairperson of Policy Committee, the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) in January 2000, and became a Member of the National Assembly in June 2000.
Ultimately, Lee’s capacity as a politician were demonstrated by designation as Chief of Campaign Committee for Roh Moo-Hyun’s Presidential Election Committee in 2002, and subsequently by appointment to the role of General Secretary of the Uri Party, from November 2003 until January 2004.
Lee’s work in the field of unification studies was limited until assuming office as Chairperson for the Reunification Committee of the Korean National Council of Churches (KNCC) in 1997. In October 2004, he became Executive Vice Chairperson of the National Unification Advisory Council.
Interestingly, he has also undertaken much work in the field of human rights, and was for a brief period in 1978-79, a board member of the Korean Council of Amnesty.
Lee assumed the position of Minister for Unification, taking over from Lee Jeong-Suk (now a Senior Fellow at the Sejong Institute and Member of the Presidential Advisory Group on the Inter-Korean Summit) in December 2006. The appointment made him the 33rd Minister for Unification, and in the intense prelude to the second inter-Korean Leader’s Summit, the appointment has also made him a regular figure in the Korean language media.