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This is a Korean name; the family name is Lee.
Lee Myung-bak
이명박
李明博
つきやま あきひろ


Incumbent
Assumed office 
25 February 2008
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo
Han Seung-soo
Chung Un-chan
Preceded by Roh Moo-hyun

In office
1 July 2002 – 30 June 2006
Preceded by Goh Kun
Succeeded by Oh Se-hoon

Born 19 December 1941 (1941-12-19) (age 68)
Osaka, Japan
Political party Grand National Party
Spouse(s) Kim Yun-ok
Religion Presbyterianism
Korean name
Hangul 이명박
Hanja
Revised Romanization I Myeong-bak
McCune–Reischauer Yi Myŏngbak

Lee Myung-bak (pronounced /ˌliː ˌmjʊŋˈbæk/; Korean pronunciation: [i.mʲʌŋ.bak̚]; born 19 December 1941 in Osaka, Japan) is a Korean politician and is the President of South Korea. Prior to his presidency, he was the CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction, and the mayor of Seoul.

Contents

Early Life and Education

Lee Myung-bak was born on December 19, 1941 in Osaka, Japan. On his birth certificate, Lee's Japanese name was Akihiro Tsukiyama (月山 明博 Tsukiyama Akihiro?, つきやま あきひろ). [1] His father, Lee Chung-u (李忠雨, 이충우), was employed as a farm hand on a cattle ranch in Japan. His mother, Chae Taewon (蔡太元, 채태원) was a housewife. Lee has three brothers and three sisters and is the fifth child of seven children. After the end of World War II in 1945, his family returned to his father's hometown Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea.[2][3] Lee's sister, Lee Ki-sun, made it known that they smuggled themselves into the country in order to avoid their property they acquired in Japan being confiscated by the officials. However, because the ship they took was wrecked off the coast of Tsushima island they lost their whole property after all and barely survived. [4]

Lee attended night school at Dongji Commercial High School in Pohang on a full scholarship. A year after graduation, Lee gained admission to Korea University. In 1964, during his third year in college, Lee was elected president of the student council. That year, Lee participated in student demonstrations against President Park Chung-hee's Seoul-Tokyo Talks taking issue with Japanese restitution for the colonization of the Korean peninsula. He was charged with plotting insurrection and was sentenced to five years probation and three years of imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Korea. He served a little under three months of his term at the Seodaemun prison (서대문 형무소) in Seoul. [5]

Lee Myung-bak is married to Kim Yoon-ok and has three daughters and one son. Lee is also a declared Christian and an elder at Somang Presbyterian Church in Seoul.

Business career

In 1965, Lee started to work at Hyundai Construction which was awarded Korea's first-ever overseas construction, a US$5.2 million contract to build the Pattani-Narathiwat Highway in Thailand. Despite being a new employee, Lee was sent to Thailand to participate in the project. The project was successfully completed in March 1968, and Lee returned to Korea and was subsequently given charge of Hyundai's heavy machinery plant in Seoul..[6]

It was during his three decades with the Hyundai Group that Lee earned the nickname "Bulldozer". In one instance, he completely dismantled a malfunctioning bulldozer to study its mechanics and figure out how to repair it.[citation needed]

Lee became a company director at the age of 29 - just five years after he joined the company - and CEO at age 35, becoming Korea's youngest ever CEO. In 1988, he was named the chairman of Hyundai Construction at the age of 47.[6] After leaving Hyundai at the end of a 27-year career, he decided to enter politics.

Early political career

In 1992 Lee made the transition from business to politics. He joined the Democratic Liberal Party instead of the Unification National Party, founded by Chung Ju-yung. He was elected as a member of the 14th Korean National Assembly (for Proportional representation). Upon being elected, he stated that he ran because "after watching Mikhail Gorbachev change the world climate I wanted to see if there was anything I could do." [3] In 1995, he ran for the City of Seoul's mayoral election, but during the primary of the Democratic Liberal Party, former prime minister Chung Won-sik was selected as the candidate.

In 1996, Lee was re-elected as a member of the Korean National Assembly. He represented Jongno-gu in Seoul. At the election, one of his opponents was another future president, Roh Moo-hyun. Roh was ranked 3rd place.

After he became a second-term lawmaker, it was disclosed that he had spent excessively in his election campaign. He resigned in 1998 before being fined 4 million won for breaking election law.[7] In the by-election that was held after his resignation, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as his successor.

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Mayor of Seoul

In 2002, Lee ran for mayor of Seoul and won. However, he was fined for beginning election activities too early.[citation needed] Lee was acquitted of the two-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors. During his tenure as mayor, he was noted for the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon, a popular stream in Seoul.

Cheonggyecheon at night

As the Mayor of Seoul Lee's most ostensible projects include the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, the creation of Seoul Forest, the opening of Seoul Forest Park, the construction of a grassy field in front of Seoul City Hall, and the addition of rapid transit buses to the city's transportation system. [6][8][9][10]

Presidential Election

On May 10, 2007, Lee officially declared his intention to run for the Grand National Party as its presidential candidate. On August 20, 2007, he defeated Park Geun-hye in the GNP's primary to become its nominee for the 2007 Presidential election. During the primary, Lee was accused of profiting from illegal speculation on land owned in Dogok-dong, an expensive ward in Seoul.[11] However, on August 2007, the prosecutors said in the interim announcement that "We do suspect Lee's brother's claim over the land in Dogok-dong, but have failed to verify the real owner of the asset".[12] On September 28 2007, the prosecutory authority officially dropped the suspicion that the Dogok land is under a borrowed-name announcing that "We have done all necessary investigations including tracing the proceeds from the sale of the land and call history and now got to the bottom of this case."[13] In Dec 2007, a few days before the Presidential election, Lee announced that he would donate all of his assets to society. [14]

His stated goals were expressed in the "747 Plan" and included: 7% annual growth in GDP, $40,000 USD per capita, and making Korea the world's seventh largest economy. An important part of his platform was the Grand Korean Waterway (한반도 대운하) project from Busan to Seoul, which he believes will lead to an economic revival. His political opponents criticized that the project was unrealistic and too costly to be realized. Others were concerned of possible negative environmental impact.

Signaling a departure from his previous views on North Korea, Lee announced a plan to "engage" North Korea through investment. Lee promised to form a consultative body with the North to discuss furthering economic ties. The body would have subcommittees on the economy, education, finance, infrastructure and welfare, and a cooperation fund of $40 billion. He promised to seek a Korean Economic Community agreement to establish the legal and systemic framework for any projects emerging from the negotiations. Lee also called for forming an aid office in North Korea as a way of decoupling humanitarian aid from nuclear talks.[15]

His foreign policy initiative was called MB Doctrine,[16] which advocates "engaging" North Korea and strengthening the US-Korean alliance.

The BBK Scandal and Kim Kyung-joon

During the 2007 Election, questions about his relationship with a company called BBK were raised. In 1999 Lee set up several companies for electronic financial services. During this time, he met Kim Kyung-joon. Lee established the LKE Bank with Kim Kyung-joon but this enterprise went bankrupt less than a year later and 5,500 investors lost substantial amounts of money. Supposed BBK co-founder Kim Kyung-joon was investigated for large-scale embezzlement and stock price-fixing schemes. Kim Kyung-joon had initially stated that Lee was not involved with the company, and Lee himself denied being associated with BBK, claiming that he had never held even a single share in it. However, Kim later suggested that Lee had in fact directed BBK activities.

Kim Hong-il of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office cleared Lee of any wrongdoing, but three days before the election a video of a speech Lee gave to students at Kwangwoon University in October 2000 surfaced, in which Lee "bragged" that he had founded BBK.[17] Two days before the election, the National Assembly appointed a special prosecutor to investigate.[18]

Special Investigator Chung Ho-young declared Lee innocent of accusations related to fraud and the BBK. Critics suggested that investigators may have felt too intimidated to delve too deeply into the case, as they interviewed Lee in a restaurant in Seoul that was once a geisha house.[19] In contrast, the special prosecutor team announced that the initially-planned interview location was leaked to the media so they urgently decided to do the interview at another location, a Korean restaurant away from the city.They also declared that they were fully prepared and the amount of time allocated for the investigation was sufficient.[20]

Eventually, prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence and a fine of 30 billion won for former BBK owner Kim Kyung-joon on charges of stock manipulation and embezzlement. In the final hearing held at the Seoul Central District Court, the prosecutors said Kim, who founded and operated the boiler-room operation is suspected of crimes including embezzlement of W31.9 billion of investors' money, stock manipulation, and the forgery and execution of private documents but had shown no remorse nor repaid his debts. Earlier, Kim Ki-dong, a prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, said, "This is a case in which an individual person has made a mockery of the Republic of Korea."[21] For spreading "false" rumors about Lee on the eve of the presidential election, the Seoul Central District Court convicted Kim of violating the nation's election law, handing down a one-year prison term. He was given another six months for document forgery to back his attacks on Lee. [22] Kim admitted in the end that President Lee had nothing to do with the BBK scandal and that he tried to avoid the criminal liability by manipulating the circumstance Korea was in. [23] Prosecutors said in a statement that Kim had been changing the story with endless lies throughout the whole investigation process, making it extremely hard for them to draw up the protocol. He even denied their request to use a lie detector. Prosecutors added by saying, "Kim's defense attorney also made a false statement by saying those who testified against Kim were all liars and committing perjury. This, in fact, is a contradictory statement to the Attorneys-at-Law and attorney ethics".[24]

Regardless of Kim's public position on Lee's involvement, Lee Myung-bak was captured on video stating that he had established BBK.[25] The prosecutors never clearly showed the relationship between Lee and BBK. Some of the prosecutors were promoted under Lee's presidency. Meanwhile, the USA court judged that Kim was free from all kinds of prosecutions regarding BBK.

Presidency

Lee shakes hands with United States President George W. Bush upon his arrival at Camp David, Maryland, United States, April 18, 2008

In spite of the lowest voter turnout ever for a presidential election in South Korea, Lee won the presidential election in December 2007 with 48.7% of the vote which was considered to be a landslide.[26][27][28] He took the oath of office February 25, 2008, vowing to revitalize the economy, strengthen relations with the United States and "deal with" North Korea.[29] Specifically, Lee declared that he would pursue a campaign of “global diplomacy” and seek further cooperative exchanges with regional neighbors Japan, China, and Russia. Furthermore, he pledged to strengthen South Korea-United States relations and also implement a tougher policy with regards to North Korea, ideas that are promoted as the MB Doctrine. Lee stated that he wanted to restore better relations with the United States through a greater emphasis on free market solutions.[30][31]

Two months after his inauguration, Lee's approval ratings stood at 28%,[32] and by June 2008 they had reached 17%.[33] Bush and Lee also discussed the ratification of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement or KORUS FTA, which faces opposition from legislators in both countries. While it was expected that Lee’s agreement during the summit to partially lift the ban on U.S. beef imports would remove the obstacles in approving the KORUS FTA in the U.S., [34] many Koreans protested the resumption of U.S. beef imports.[35]

As protests escalated, the Korean government issued a statement warning that violent protesters would be punished and measures would be taken to stop clashes between police and protesters. The protest continued for more that two months and the original purpose of the candlelight vigils against U.S. beef imports has been replaced by others, such as opposition to the privatization of public companies, education policy, construction of the Canal. The damages caused by protesters to the businesses around the demonstration and the social cost reached at about 3,751,300,000,000 won. [36] Eventually, support for the protesters waned amongst the general public.[37] According to the Wall Street Journal, Lee's plan to privatizing public companies was a modest but "perhaps important step" toward reform.[38]

As the government gained more stability, the approval rating of Lee's administration rose to 32.8%. Since the resumption of U.S. beef imports, more people are buying U.S. beef and now it has the second largest market share in Korea, after Australian beef.[39][40]

Domestic policy

Education policy

Lee has proposed a number of changes to the country's education system, reportedly with the aim of making education more appealing to the upper class. [41] In contrast, introducing a tailor-made educational system, the Lee administration established the National Scholarship Foundation that offers services such as student loan and loan counseling. In addition, the government is currently promoting 'Income contingency pay-later plan' in order to help out those struggling to pay the tuition fee.[42] Teachers have been highly critical of these changes, arguing that Lee wants to turn education in the country into a "free market" while ignoring the underfunding of education in regions outside the Seoul area.[43] However, the government designated 82 well-performing high schools in rural areas as 'public boarding school' and granted funds amounting to 317 billion won in total, 3.8 billion won each on average. [44] Moreover, the Lee Myung-bak government plans to use a pool of young Korean Americans for the promotion of after-school English education in public schools in rural areas with an aim to improve the quality of education. [45] Prior to assuming the presidency, Lee’s transition team announced it would implement a nationwide English-immersion program in order to provide students with the language tools necessary to be successful in a highly globalized world. Under this program, all classes would have been taught in English by 2010. However, Lee abandoned the program after facing strong opposition from parents, teachers, and education specialists. [46] Currently he is trying to implement a program where all English courses in middle and secondary schools will be taught in English only. This will require the government to not only educate vast number of teachers in Korea but will also require the government to recruit university students studying abroad in English-speaking countries.

All schools in Gyeonggi Province will hold English-language classes in English only starting 2011, and every school in the province will have native speakers as teaching assistants by 2010. This project is aimed at teaching students to be comfortable speaking with English-speaking foreigners without taking extra classes at private institutions. As part of an employment test starting 2008, applicants have to demonstrate their ability to conduct a class only in the language. Some schools with native-speaking teaching assistants will start so-called English immersion classes from 2008.[47]

Economic policy

Mbnomics is the term applied to Lee's macroeconomic policy.[48] The term is derived by combining initials of Myung-bak (Mb) and the term economics (-nomics) to form "Mbnomics".

Kang Man-Soo, the Minister of Strategy and Finance, is credited with the creation and design of Mbnomics.[49]

The centerpiece of Lee's economic revitalization is his "Korea 7·4·7" plan. The plan takes its names from its goals - to bring 7% economic growth during his term, raise Korea's per capita income to US$40,000, and make Korea the world's seventh largest economy. As Lee puts it, his government is mandated with creating a new Korea where "the people are affluent, society is warm and the state strong." To do this, he plans to follow a pragmatic, market-friendly strategy: Smart Market Economy, Empirical Pragmatism, Democratic Activism.[6]

Nowadays Lee wanted to move to low-carbon growth in coming decades. The government hopes to be a bridge between rich and poor countries in fighting global warming by setting itself 2020 goals for greenhouse gas emissions.[50] In connection with the recent financial shock from the United States, President Lee emphasized the importance of solid cooperation between political and business circles. Lee also proposed a tripartite meeting among the finance ministers of South Korea, Japan, and China aimed at coordinating policies to cope with the credit crisis. [51]

Canal

Hong Jong-ho, an economist at Hanyang University, has claimed that the Grand Korean Waterway would create an “environmental disaster” that would worsen flooding and pollute the two rivers that supply drinking water for two-thirds of the country's population. He also said the waterway would be the most expensive construction project in South Korean history, costing as much as $50 billion. Some studies suggest that the Grand canal project, once completed, will block the source of affected water into the river and the dredging will remove the polluted sediments from the river bed which eventually will result in greater water quality, improving self-purification function of the river and facilitating the restoration of the ecosystem. Few opponents of the project argue that during the construction process, damage to the environment could be caused by the concrete facility. However, the study objects the idea by saying that when environment-friendly method of construction like the 'swamp-restoration' is adopted, this would rather bring a positive effect such as improving the Han river.[52] Buddhist groups have voiced fears that it would submerge nearby Buddhist relics,[53] which would cause irreparable damage to a significant portion of Korea's cultural legacy.[54] On the other hand, some say once the Kyungboo Canal is developed, another 177 cultural assets could be discovered during excavations which could be used for tourist attraction. In particular, the development of the Canal will increase the accessibility to cultural assets that are far to reach, and hence more efficient management of those assets would be possible.[55] Lee's promise to build the Grand Korean Waterway has stalled due to low public opinion.[56]

If successful, Lee maintains his plan, which would include dredging and other measures to improve Korea's waterways, would decrease water pollution, and bring economic benefits to local communities to name a few. Speaking in 2005 about the project, Lee said, "Many journalists questioned me why I keep commenting on the building of the canal. However, it's a simple fact that many cities around the world were benefited by making the best use of their rivers and seas."[6] At a special conference held on June 19, 2008 President Lee announced that he will drop the Grand Canal project if the public opposes to the idea and the Premiere confirmed this statement on September 8, 2008.[57] Despite this assurance, many now accuse Lee of continuing the Canal plan under the guise of "Maintenance of the 4 Great Rivers (4대강 정비사업)."

Cabinet

Office Name Term
President Lee Myeongbak 2008
Prime Minister Han Deoksu 2007-2008
Han Seungsu 2008-2009
Chung Un-chan 2009-
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Ryu Myeonghwan 2008
Minister for Strategy and Finance Kang Mansoo 2008-2009
Yun Jeunghyeon 2009
Minister for Education and Science Technology Gim Doyeon 2008
An Byeongman 2008
Minister for Unification Gim Hajung 2008-2009
Hyeon Intaek 2009
Minister for National Defence Ri Sanghui 2008-2009

Lee Myung-bak has faced strong criticism over his choice of political appointees – many of whom are wealthy. The concern is that Lee’s appointees will favor policies that protect the rich while failing to address the needs of the underprivileged. Another criticism is that these appointees have been mostly chosen from the nation's southeast region (Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do), which is known as a GNP stronghold. [58] While the fact that the property owned by high officials including ministers has increased on average, most of them were legally obtained and inherited property. Those ministers involved in the allegation of illegal real-estate spectulation were already replaced. Hence, the average property owned by the three replaced ministers were only 1.7 billion won. [59] In order to set aside the alleged regional bias, Lee's first cabinet appointment procedure faithfully abided by the principles and rules by appointing 4 from Seoul and Yeongnam district, 3 from Honam, Gangwon, and Chungcheong province, and 1 from North Korea.[60] Moreover, Lee's administration increased the welfare budget by 9% to help the poorest maintain the living and middle class' stability, and is pursuing many more policies for the benefit of the public than the former government.[61] Lee's administration further claims that the tax reforms undertaken including the 'comprehensive property tax cut' is not to benefit the wealthy and the haves, but to correct a wrongful tax according to the market principle. [62] Lee has also had to face corruption charges leveled at his administration. Three appointees have already resigned amid suspicions of corruption. And Lee’s top intelligence chief and anticorruption aide face accusations that they received bribes from The Samsung Group. Both Samsung and Lee denied the charges. [63] Those involved in the allegation of receiving bribes from Samsung group have been cleared of charges after special prosecutory investigation. [64]

Lee on July 7 2008 named Ahn Byong-man, a presidential advisor for state future planning, as his new minister of education, science and technology. Jang Tae-pyoung, a former secretary general of the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption, becomes minister of food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and Grand National Party lawmaker Jeon Jae-hee minister of health, welfare and family affairs. In addition, Lee gave Prime Minister Han Seung-soo another chance in the belief that no proper working conditions have been provided for the Cabinet due to many pending issues since the inauguration of the new administration.[65]

Foreign policy

Lee is widely considered pro-U.S.[66] In mid-April 2008, Lee traveled to the United States for his first official overseas visit to meet with US President George W. Bush at the White House and Camp David. Lee’s more aggressive approach towards North Korea was described as a welcome change for Bush,[67] who was often at odds with Roh Moo-hyun.[68] For a decade, what some people criticized as the former government's controversial and endless handing out of massive aid to North Korea, in the name of the 'National Coexistence, Independence' has failed to effectuate change in the North. The former government neglected the discussion on the nuclear issue with the North during the summit twice and struck a mass aid deal without any sort of social consensus and examination on the ways and means of the funding, which some say created an unnecessary burden to the Korean people. The government's stance towards North Korea is not to disrespect the agreement made between the heads of the two Koreas but to mull over the economic feasibility and realizable possibility through negotiation based on mutual trust and respect, and prioriting going forward with the project.[69] During a press conference, the two leaders expressed hope that North Korea would disclose the details of their nuclear weapons program, and pledged their commitment to resolve the issue through the multilateral Six-party talks. [70] Lee also gave assurances that both the U.S. and South Korea would use dialogue to end the crisis. Despite Lee's wavering support at home, Lee's leadership was lauded by U.S. President Barack Obama at the 2009 G-20 London summit, where Obama called South Korea "[one of America's] closest allies and greatest friends." Obama and Lee agreed on a need "for a stern, united response from the international community" in light of North Korea's efforts toward a threatened satellite launch. Lee accepted an invitation by Obama to visit the United States on June 16, 2009.[71]

He has also played a role in bringing about the normalization of South Korea's relations with Russia. Furthermore, Lee has built relationships with foreign leaders, including former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen[72], former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.[citation needed]

US Beef Imports

In April 18, 2008, Lee's administration agreed on resumption of U.S. beef imports. Previously, Korea had banned U.S. beef after a cow infected with BSE that had originated from Canada was found in Washington state.[27][73] Fears that US beef imports in South Korea in relation to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement would cause Mad Cow disease infected beef to be imported to South Korea came to a boil in the summer of 2008.

Ten days after the deal was formally signed, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation’s current affairs program “PD Diary” aired a multi-part episode entitled “U.S. beef, is it safe from mad cow disease?”It was reported by MBC that Koreans carry a gene making them more susceptible to mad cow disease than Americans. This claim has been retracted since by MBC.[74][75] MBC further devoted 15 out of 25 other news slots to publicizing the issue showing images of downer cows from England and U.S., and reporting information such as claiming that vCJD is easily transmittable through blood transfusions, by eating instant noodles containing beef products, using cosmetics made with cow derived collagen, etc.. [76] People's roar in an Internet community, Agora, also helped demonstrations to demand the renegotiation of the terms of the import deal. .[74].

As public anger continued to snowball, citizen started public demonstrations. On many nights, the rallies turned into confrontations with the violent police. When candles had burned out and children had gone home with their parents, many protesters were often attacked by riot-control policemen.[74]

In an interview, Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun said the policy will be pursued "with the maximum prudence, as it will take time for the U.S. to grasp the situation in Korea and gather opinions inside the industry." The government's policy is to ban import of beef from older cattle "under any circumstances, either through renegotiations between governments or self-regulation by importers."[77]

U.S. bone-in beef from cattle slaughtered and processed according to Korea's new import regulations, the Quality System Assessment (QSA), is now sold in Korea but US beef is still not available in major supermarkets due to the perceived health risk.[78] The Seoul Southern District Court ordered MBC to air a correction by the popular MBC current affairs program "PD Notebook", saying that the report was partially wrong and exaggerated the threat of mad cow disease. The public anger towards resuming the beef deal is now regaining its composure as many people began to buy U.S. beef. The market share of U.S. beef currently stands (Sept 23) at 28.8% following Australian beef (top seller), but for 10-days prior to Korea's thanksgiving day, it was ranked the first among its competitors.[40]

Criticism

Political freedoms

Under the Lee Myung-bak administration, police are reportedly moving to restrict assemblies and demonstrations depending on their purposes as well as imposing fines on people who refuse on-the-street demands to present identification.[79] Lee has been called "authoritarian,"[80] "pro-big business and anti-labor." Lee vowed in 2007 to "get rid of" political and "hard-line" unions.[81]

Amnesty International highly criticized the human rights violation caused by the presidency of Lee Myung-bak. Amnesty International accused Lee Myung Bak of ordering South Korean police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors who were demonstrating against Lee's policies.[82] In contrast to his use of excessive force against the protestors, in an interview with Time magazine, President Lee said, "I fully understand the protesters' point of view on the matter" and regarding the long-lasting demonstration, he added, "Protesting culture has a deep-root in democracy of Korea and despite the ongoing political upheaval of this country, the enthusiasm that the protesters showed is one side of the dynamism we embrace and this will eventually be a positive drive of Korea's development".[83]

Press freedoms

The International Federation of Journalists have condemned changes being made in the management of major broadcast media in South Korea which amount to political interference. [84] The Lee government has been accused of trying to manipulate media to suit its political tastes by appointing executives to state-run broadcasting and some key public enterprises who are his supporters.

The Lee government has also been accused of appointing his close associates to presidencies of SKY LIFE satellite broadcasting and 24 hours news channel YTN, both of which supported his presidential campaign. The chief executives of Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation and the English broadcasting company, Arirang TV have been replaced by government supporters.

It has also been suggested that Lee is trying to change the top executive, Chung Yeon-ju of KBS (Korean Broadcasting System), the country's most powerful television network. The prosecution’s plan to summon Chung was made after Broadcasting and Communications Commission Chairman Choi Si-jung, known to be President Lee Myung-bak’s “mentor,” called for Chung to resign. The summons stirred up controversy over “investigation for political purposes” combined with pressure from all directions by the Board of Audit and Inspection and the NTS.[85] Chung Yeon-ju was fired after the inspection carried out by Audit and Inspection Board controlled by Lee's government. The reliability of the KBS broadcasting has been doubted, after the new CEO, Lee Byungsoon, was appointed. In addition, the fact that the new CEO of YTN and KOBACO helped his presidential campaign was for their own career background as a professional broadcaster and they were all appointed through legal procedures.[86][87] In addition the Lee government has been under suspicion of trying to control television programmes that are critical of the government according to local journalists. Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (a Korean television network) is under court investigation over a program dealing with a beef trade deal with the United States which the IFJ local affiliate, the Journalists' Association of Korea (JAK) says is against press freedom and is in breach of the promise protecting Journalists. The program, known as 'PD Diary', was accused to deliberately distort 19 conspicuous parts of the program, including several deliberate mistranslations, which the Lee administration saw as being at least partially responsible for sparking the U.S. beef protests. [88][89][90] The translator, Ji-Min Jung, disclosed that the producers of the program had intentionally distorted the original translation and the prosecutor's investigation result confirmed on July 31 that a false representation was made. The Lee administration claimed that the MBC program, known as 'PD Diary', deliberately distorted some parts of the program.[91][92] Norma Kang Muico, Amnesty International’s Korea researcher, said (in 2009), “We are extremely concerned that the human rights situation in South Korea has deteriorated since last year.” As an example, she mentioned the prosecution’s indictment of five people who were involved in the production of an MBC program about mad cow disease that aired in 2008. She concluded, “The freedom of the press in Korea is now facing a challenge."[93]

Religion

There are concerns about Lee's religious beliefs presenting a threat to Buddhism in Korea. When Lee was mayor of Seoul, he declared the city "a holy place governed by God" and the citizens of Seoul "God's people." He went on to dedicate the city "to the Lord." In 2006, Lee also sent a video prayer message to a Christian rally where the worship leader called on God to "let the Buddhist temples in this country crumble down!" Lee reportedly received 80% of Korea's Christian votes.[94]

In August 2008, Buddhist monks protested against Lee's pro-Christian politics.[95] Lee Myung-bak and his government have been accused by many Buddhist groups, including the influential Jogye order, of discriminating against and promoting hostility toward Buddhism.[96] According to Buddhists, Christian persecution of Buddhism has intensified in South Korea in recent years. Christians have maltreated and humiliated Buddhist laity and monks, burned down temples, and vandalized Sutras and devotional items. [97] A former pastor and presidential secretary showed the government's hostility and intolerance toward Buddhism when he compared the protesters against religious discrimination to “Satan’s minions.”[98] The Buddhist community accepted (Sept 9) President Lee's expression of deep regret over his government's alleged discrimination against Buddhists and bias in favor of Christians. The committee of leaders from all Buddhist sectors said that they had considered Lee's apology sincere and taking into consideration the increasing social conflict and economic hardship, they decided to take President Lee's remarks positively. The discomfort among the Buddhists has gradually appeased since then. [99][100]

Canal

Hong Jong-ho, an economist at Hanyang University, has claimed that the Grand Korean Waterway would create an “environmental disaster” that would worsen flooding and pollute the two rivers that supply drinking water for two-thirds of the country's population. He also said the waterway would be the most expensive construction project in South Korean history, costing as much as $50 billion. Buddhist groups have voiced fears that it would submerge nearby Buddhist relics,[101] which would cause irreparable damage to a significant portion of Korea's cultural legacy.[102]

Stance on North Korea

A longtime opponent of the Sunshine Policy carried out by his predecessors Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, Lee shifted towards a more aggressive policy on North Korea, promising to provide massive economic assistance but only after North Korea abandoned its suspected nuclear weapons programs. The ultimate goal of the administration regarding inter-Korean relation is based on the "non-nuclear, openness, 3000" plan that entails reciprocity and mutual benefit between the two Koreas in order to achieve economic advancement and bring about happiness among the people living in the Korean peninsula. The current inter-Korean situation is undergoing a massive transitional period. The administration, however, made it clear that it will pursue a more productive policy that eventually would contribute to the peaceful reunification, but only after North Korea gives up its nuclear ambitions and adopt a more open-minded approach. The North Korean government viewed this as confrontational and responded by calling Lee a “traitor” and an “anti-North confrontation advocator”. The North Korean response included the expulsion of South Korean officials from an inter-Korean industrial complex, the launching of naval missiles into the sea, and the deployment of MIGs and army units provocatively close to the DMZ. Domestically, Lee's critics claim his strategy will only serve to antagonize the Kim Jong-il regime and undermine progress towards friendly North Korea-South Korea relations[103]

Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, a think tank that often advises the government, argues that inter-Korean relations have been rapidly deteriorating, mainly because the Lee Myung-bak government persisted on differentiating its North Korean policies from those of the former Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments, ignoring the agreements previously made by the North-South summit and pursued a hardline policy. [104]

However, in an interview with Yahoo!, Lee claims that there are many other inter-Korean agreements as well which have not been honored and that both Koreas should have frank dialogue with each other to break the stalemate. Lee supports the reunification of Korea, although he believes that political differences between the two Koreas create an enormous obstacle to reunification.

Cabinet Appointments

Lee Myung-bak has faced strong criticism over his choice of political appointees – many of whom are wealthy. The concern is that Lee’s appointees will favor policies that protect the rich while failing to address the needs of the underprivileged. Another criticism is that these appointees have been mostly chosen from the nation's southeast region, which is reputably known as a GNP stronghold. [58] Lee has also had to face corruption charges leveled at his administration. Three appointees have already resigned amid suspicions of corruption. And Lee’s top intelligence chief and anticorruption aide face accusations that they received bribes from The Samsung Group. Both Samsung and Lee denied the charges. [63]

President's Donation

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak donated 33.1 billion won ($26.1 million), about 88% of his fortune in July 2009. The decision is not only to carry out his campaign pledge but to live up to his religioous commitment as a devout Christian affirmed much earlier than the election manifesto. He became the first incumbent president in the country to contribute personal wealth to society. It has also been drawing keen attention from overseas media includin the Wall Street Journal since such occation has been hardly seen in other countries.[105] The Lee Myung-bak & Kim Yoon-ok Foundation (Lee & Kim Foundation) created with fund contributions started it activity on March 12, 2010 selecting 451 scholarship students comprising of 218 middle and 233 high schoolers.[106]

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Additional reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Roh Moo-hyun
President of South Korea
2008–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Goh Kun
Mayor of Seoul
2002–2006
Succeeded by
Oh Se-hoon

Simple English

Lee Myung-bak
Hangul: 이명박
Hanja: 李明博
File:Lee


Incumbent
Assumed office 
25 February 2008
Prime Minister Chung Un-chan
Preceded by Roh Moo-hyun

In office
1 July 2002 – 30 June 2006
Preceded by Goh Kun
Succeeded by Oh Se-hoon

Born 19 December 1941 (1941-12-19) (age 69)
Osaka, Japan
Nationality South Korean
Political party Grand National Party
Spouse Kim Yun-ok
Profession Businessman
Religion Presbyterianism
Signature File:Lee myungbak

Lee Myung-bak (pronounced /ˌliː ˌmjɜŋˈbak/) (이명박) (19 December 1941 – present) is a Korean politician. He was the CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction. In 2002 Lee declared his candidacy for Seoul Mayor, and won the election. After he became president, he said, "I will give Seoul a complete makeover."[1] He became the present President of South Korea on 19 December 2007. This was the same day as his birthday. It was also the same day he married his wife, Kim Yoon-ok. So, on their 37th wedding anniversary and his 67th birthday, Lee became President of South Korea.[1] Lee has three daughters and one son.

Lee Myung-bak was born on December 19, 1941 in Japan. After the end of World War II in 1945, his family came back to his father's hometown Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea. Lee went to night school at Dongji Commercial High School.[2][3]

On March 26, 2010 an explosion destroyed the South Korean warship Cheonan.[4] This killed 40 men. Six men also disappeared. They are thought to be dead. An investigation into the sinking blamed North Korea. They said that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine had sunk the ship.[4] North Korea said it had nothing to do with the Cheonan's sinking. They said they were not guilty. Lee said their denial was "laughable". He stopped all trade between the north and south.[4] He also asked the United Nations to help them against North Korea. He also began sending radio messages to North Korean people.

Lee Myung-bak is a Christian and goes to the Somang Presbyterian church. When he was a mayor, he once declared that Seoul was a "holy place governed by God".[5] He has been much criticized for his beliefs. Buddhist people protested that Lee was a threat to their religion.[6]

Lee has also been criticized for not giving enough political freedom to the people.[7] For example, the police limited demonstrations.[7] But Lee said, "I fully understand the protestors' point of view on the matter". He added, "Protesting culture has a deep root in democracy of Korea and despite the ongoing political upheaval of this country, the enthusiasm that the protesters showed is one side ... we embrace (approve) and this will ... be a positive (good) drive of Korea's development."[8]

References

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