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President Lee Myung-bak [2008-2013]

President Lee Myung-bak [2008-2013]President Lee Myung-bak was elected president on December 19th, 2007 and was sworn in as the 17th President of the Republic of Korea on February 25th, 2008. President Lee was born on December 19th (1941), his marriage to First Lady Kim Yoon-ok took place on December 19th and he was elected on December 19th, making this one his most memorable and auspicious days.

Lee Myung-bak makes his own instant coffee and does not pull rank with people. Lee has confidence in his ability to accomplish any task. However he was shy -- he was not outgoing enough to draw many people into his fold. Some cite this in explaining why Lee has not done a good job reaching out to former party chairman and primary rival Park Geun-hye, or to GNP defector Lee Hoi-chang. As a result of his clumsiness with personal relationships, it was said he trusts only a mall inner circle of friends and confidants. Lee Myung-bak was often late for meetings and events.

Lee Myung-bak was born in Japan in 1941, and with his family moved back to Korea after national liberation. Lee's family was extremely poor, even by the post-war standard, and Lee often cites poverty as a factor in making him what he was today. The fifth of seven children, Lee had to work from his youngest years. He worked his way through elementary and middle school, eventually finishing night classes at Dongji Commercial High School in Pohang, a port city located in the southeastern tip of Korea. In recalling the past, President Lee said "The chronic poverty that haunted my family never disappeared until after I was in my 20s." After graduating from highschool, he enrolled in, and graduated from Korea University, at one point, working as a garbage collector in order to pay for his tuition.

Lee's involvement in pro-democracy protests as Korea University student-body president led to a six-month stint in prison. Lee was exempted from military service due to lung disease. After graduating from Korea University with a degree in Business Administration, President Lee joined Hyundai Engineering and Construction as an entry-level employee. Hyundai would eventually become one of Korea's largest and most profitable companies to date but when President Lee first entered, it was just another medium-sized enterprise with limited staff and little overseas experience. However, soon after joining the company, his hard-working style, his determination and limitless creativity all led him to be promoted through the ranks and he became CEO of the company after only twelve years, making him one of the youngest CEO's at that time. Stemming from his days heading up Hyundai Construction, Lee puts efficiency above all and was very detail- and results-oriented.

As CEO, President Lee traveled far and established many important human networks which are still maintained to this day. His experience reaches across many continents, from the Middle East to the Far East, Southeast Asia, Russia, Europe and South America. His pioneering ways and adventurism led him to the former Soviet Union at a time when most would not even contemplate such an endeavor. His many legacies are still in full display in the numerous bridges and magnificent buildings around the world, most of them now enduring landmarks.

After wrapping up a successful career in the private sector, President Lee entered politics in 1992 and served as a proportional representative of the New Korea Party during the 14th National Assembly. In 1996, he was elected to the National Assembly by defeating former President Roh Moo-hyun in the Jongro district election in Seoul, which was a constituency with considerable symbolic and political significance in Korean politics. In 2002, President Lee declared his intention to run for the Seoul mayoral race and was elected, overcoming earlier doubts from many experts that he would lose the race.

As Mayor of Seoul, President Lee embarked on an ambitious plan to rejuvenate Seoul, a vast metropolis with a population of roughly ten million. He began implementing his ambitious campaign pledges one by one, first beginning with the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream in central Seoul. Initially, many people raised concerns as to the need and viability of this project. Critics argued that uncovering the stream, which was a symbol of Korea??s rapid industrialization and also the sad reminder of negligence and urban decay, would cause nightmarish traffic congestion in downtown Seoul, disrupt business in the adjacent area and lead to environmental damage. However, all such concerns were proven to be misplaced. Another of his ambitious project was the overhaul of the public transportation grid which was met with similar resistance. Seoul, with its notorious traffic congestion and decrepit public transportation system, was badly in need of a transformation. Despite public skepticism, his vision was undeterred and finally these projects, and many others, were successfully completed with outstanding results.

After becoming the presidential nominee of the Grand National Party, the frontrunner in South Korea's presidential race avoided what many political analysts describe as his only serious obstacle to victory. On 01 November 2009 prosecutors cleared former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak of fraud accusations, putting him in a position to consolidate a double-digit poll lead over rivals. Senior prosecutor Kim Hong-il said his office will not prosecute presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak, after an investigation into allegations of stock price manipulation and fraud. He said investigators found "no evidence" Lee was involved in rigging share prices. Therefore, he said there will be no prosecution.

Lee, a former Seoul mayor, had been suspected of making tens of millions of dollars using fraudulent financial practices in partnership with Korean-American executive Kim Kyung-jun. Kim, who was arrested in the United States in 2005, was extradited to South Korea.

Lee won the presidential election on December 19th 2007 after securing more than 48.7% of the total votes cast. He won 22.5% more votes than his opponent, making the margin of victory one of the largest in Korean history. His overwhelming election victory was a clear sign that the people were now ready for a new kind of leadership befitting the 21st century.

As president, he has chosen "Green Growth" as the new national vision for Korea. This vision would create jobs, protect the environment and prepare Korea for the 21st century. On the international stage, President Lee has stated that he would steer Korea so that it becomes more engaged with the international community, partaking in the global efforts to fight terrorism and climate change, eradicate poverty and reduce tension in the region. His pragmatic approach to North Korea would also usher in a new era of peace and stability on the Peninsula. Through the Six Party Talks framework, the North Korean nuclear issue would be peacefully resolved through vigorous and principled diplomacy. On the economic front, President Lee has carried out various regulatory reforms and would continue to do so, thus making Korea a truly business-friendly country.

After taking office, he distanced himself from his predecessors, who had favored attempted reconciliation with the North. The former president sought denuclearization of North Korea in exchange for large-scale economic aid, which was rejected by the North. But relations deteriorated further after the fatal 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, which claimed the lives of 46 sailors. Seoul blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing the ship, but Pyongyang denied involvement in the sinking.

Probably to counter the perception that he was weak on foreign policy, Lee's advisors highlight Lee's years working overseas and some even note that Lee can conduct business in English. However, experience has shown that his English was rudimentary and he would need an interpreter for all working meetings. That said, his English was sufficient to conduct some "hallway diplomacy" and engage in chit-chat with other leaders at summits and international gatherings -- a significant advance over Roh Moo-Hyun.

Lee enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities and sports. In particular, he was an avid tennis player and enjoyed swimming. Lee Myung-bak advisors publicly touted the fact that Lee ran one hour every day on a treadmill, but he only ran when he had time. President Lee and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok had three daughters and one son. They were proud grandparents with six grandchildren who could be found playing in the Presidential residence most days of the week. His birthday and his wedding anniversary were December 19, the day of Korea's presidential election. Lee chose to get married on his birthday so he would not forget his anniversary.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak apologized to the nation 24 July 2012 for corruption allegations facing his brother and some of the president's top aides. Lee gave a televised address saying he bows his head in apology for "causing concern" to the South Korean people. His brother, Lee Sang-deuk, was arrested earlier this month in connection with allegations that he received more than $500,000 from failed savings banks in exchange for favors. Some of the president's former top aides have also been arrested in graft scandals. Lee was set to leave office when his term ends in February.

On 17 January 2018 Lee Myung-bak expressed his views on the ongoing investigation by the prosecution into allegations of bribery. In a press briefing at his office in Seoul, he read a statement saying the probe was part of political revenge by the current administration. Stressing that his former aides were patriots who worked for the country the ex president claimed the prosecution was targeting him - as such he should be questioned, not his aides. Lee added he was responsible for whatever happened during his term but did not receive questions from the press. His former aide was under arrest for accepting a bribe from then chief of the nation's intel agency - who was also arrested. The former conservative leader was accused of owning an auto-parts company and using it to stash illicit funds.

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Page last modified: 18-01-2018 17:08:08 ZULU