Lee Myung-bak
Former president of South Korea
Lee Myung-bak
Lee Myung-bak was the tenth President of South Korea. Prior to his presidency, he was the CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction and the mayor of Seoul. He is married to Kim Yoon-ok and has three daughters and one son. His older brother is Lee Sang-deuk, a South Korean politician. He attends the Somang Presbyterian Church. Lee is a graduate of Korea University and also received an honorary degree from Paris Diderot University on May 13, 2011.
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Park's Dresden Speech
Huffington Post - almost 2 years
One year ago today, on March 28, 2014, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea delivered what she clearly hoped would be a historic speech in the former East German city of Dresden, calling for reconciliation and reunification of the divided peninsula. Park may have thought she was holding out an olive branch, but her counterpart in North Korea did not see it that way. State media of North Korea derided it using sexist insults while its military threatened another nuclear test and fired artillery across the sea border. A spokesman of the National Defence Commission, arguably the most powerful body within North Korea, memorably condemned it as "daydream of a psychopath." Why has the outreach failed? One reason may have been the lack of communication. South Koreans reportedly had not informed or consulted the North prior to Park's speech.[1] From the North's point of view, it may well have seemed like announcing an engagement without notifying the fiancée. Park's one-sided approach con ...
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Huffington Post article
Image of Asia: Ex-leader's memoir published in South Korea
Yahoo News - about 2 years
In this photo by Ahn Young-joon, a man reads a memoir by former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak titled "President's Time" at a bookstore in Seoul. Lee wrote in the memoir published Monday that late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il repeatedly pushed for summit talks with South Korea before his 2011 death but the plans failed because Pyongyang demanded $10 billion and large shipments of food and fertilizer as a condition of the talks. Lee is vilified in North Korea for halting the South's "sunshine policy" of providing generous economic aid to Pyongyang with few strings attached. He writes in his memoir that the "sunshine policy" was tarnished because North Korea diverted aid to nuclear and missile development and staged provocations against South Korea.
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Yahoo News article
US prevented South Korea air strike on North, says Robert Gates
Yahoo News - about 3 years
South Korea declined to comment Wednesday on revelations that the United States talked it down from launching a retaliatory air strike on North Korea in 2010. The claims were made in the newly published memoir of former US defense secretary Robert Gates, in which he also describes former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun as "probably a little bit crazy". The 2010 incident followed the North's surprise shelling of a South Korean border island in November of that year. The attack triggered what Gates labelled a "very dangerous crisis", with the South Korean government of then-president Lee Myung-Bak initially insisting on a robust military response.
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Yahoo News article
Impasse in Japan-Korea Relations is an Opportunity for Resolution
Huffington Post - about 3 years
Japan-Korea relations are at one of the worst levels of the postwar era. For many observers, this is puzzling. The deterioration in Japan-China relations, however regrettable, has certain structural causes. The rise of China is taking an unambiguous character of the use or threat of force, which will require a forceful response from Japan if necessary. The danger is real and imminent, but at least there are many comparable events in history, and we hope that some solution could be found from that history. So, the first question in Japan-Korea relations is whether there is a structural cause for the current deterioration of their relationship. At first glance, the answer is no. Korea has remarkable achievements: it established a powerful democracy from a militarist autocracy, developed one of the most vibrant and energetic economies in East Asia, and it has dazzled the Japanese with "Korean waves." Japan, after being adrift for more than 20 years, is now regaining vigor under Abenomics ...
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Huffington Post article
South Koreans Spend Way Too Much Money On Education
Business Insider - over 3 years
MIRIM HIGH SCHOOL for girls in Seoul is living proof that South Koreans take education seriously. The students, aged 15 to 18, bow respectfully whenever a teacher passes. Many of them board, and all attend extra-curricular classes from 6pm to 9pm. Do they work too hard? Chang Byong-gap, the headmaster, laughs at the question. South Korea’s passion for education has historical roots. In the early years of the Choson dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1910, those who passed a civil-service exam could gain entry to the privileged yangban class, a scholarly aristocracy. Those roots were reinforced by more recent history, notes Michael Seth, author of "Education Fever". Under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945, Koreans’ educational aspirations were frustrated, resulting in pent-up demand. In the carnage of the Korean war of 1950-53, many of the old social hierarchies crumbled, convincing people they could succeed by their own efforts. Before 1971 children were taught in two ...
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Business Insider article
North and South Korea to reopen Kaesong industrial complex
Guardian (UK) - over 3 years
Site provides cheap labour for South Korea and hard currency for the North North and South Korea have agreed to re-open a shuttered industrial park on a trial basis starting on Monday, according to the South's unification ministry. The Kaesong industrial zone is located a few kilometres inside North Korea and was closed when Pyongyang pulled its 53,000 workers out amid rising tensions between the two Koreas in April. Attempts will be made to attract foreign investors into the zone, said the ministry, which is responsible for handling South Korea's stance on inter-Korean relations. The industrial park draws on investment from more than 100 South Korean firms. It provided cheap labour for South Korean firms and much-needed hard currency for the North, generating a $80m (£50m) wage bill last year, according to Seoul's unification ministry. But it was also part of the Seoul's "sunshine policy" of reaching out to Pyongyang, which ended when the previous South Korean president, Lee Myu ...
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Guardian (UK) article
SKorea's ex-spy chief indicted in election scandal
Fox News - over 3 years
South Korean prosecutors have indicted a former spy chief on charges of meddling in last year's presidential elections by ordering an online smear campaign against opposition candidates. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said Friday that Won Sei-hoon ordered his agents to post comments slandering liberal candidates and praising conservative Park Geun-hye. Park won the December vote and took office in February. Won resigned as National Intelligence Service chief in March after serving for four years under former President Lee Myung-bak. Prosecutors say in a statement that NIS also tried to portray opposition candidate Moon Jae-in as a North Korea sympathizer. NIS plans to issue its response later. Won would face up to five years' imprisonment if found guilty. The opposition threatens to impeach the justice minister over the scandal.
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Fox News article
Koreas agree to meet for highest level talks in years
Fox News - over 3 years
The two Koreas will hold their highest-level talks in years Wednesday in an effort to restore scrapped joint economic projects and ease animosity marked by recent threats of nuclear war. That in itself is progress, though there are already hints that disputes in their bloody history could thwart efforts to better ties. Still, just setting up the two-day meeting in Seoul, through a 17-hour negotiating session that ended early Monday, required the kind of diplomatic resolve that has long been absent in inter-Korean relations, and analysts say it could be a tentative new start. It's also a political and diplomatic victory for new South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who expressed her country's interest in talks and rebuilding trust even as she batted back North Korean war rhetoric with vows to hit back strongly if attacked. "It's very significant that they're sitting down and talking at all ... after all the heated rhetoric this spring," said John Delury, an analyst at Seoul's Yons ...
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Fox News article
NKorea proposes working level talks with SKorea
Fox News - over 3 years
North Korea on Friday proposed holding low-level government talks with South Korea this weekend as the rivals look to mend ties that have plunged during recent years amid hardline stances by both countries. Pyongyang, which wants to meet Sunday in its border city of Kaesong, also said it would reopen a Red Cross communication line with South Korea in their truce village later Friday. During a weeks-long period of animosity marked by a string of North Korean threats of war and South Korean vows of counterstrikes, the North in March shut down the communication line used for exchanging messages on humanitarian issues. The statement Friday by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles relations with Seoul, followed the countries' agreement a day earlier to hold talks on issues including reopening a jointly run industrial complex in Kaesong that had been the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation before it closed this spring. ...
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Fox News article
As US talks up diplomacy, NKorea takes hard line
Fox News - almost 4 years
The United States and Japan opened the door Sunday to new nuclear talks if North Korea lowered tensions and honored past agreements, even as the saber-rattling government rejected South Korea's latest offer of dialogue as a "crafty trick." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Tokyo that North Korea would find "ready partners" in the United States if it began abandoning its nuclear program. Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also demanded a resolution to a dispute concerning Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by North Korean officials. The diplomats seemed to point the way for a possible revival of the six-nation talks that have been suspended for four years. China long pushed has for the process to resume without conditions. But the U.S. and allies South Korea and Japan fear rewarding North Korea for its belligerence and endless repetition of a cycle of tensions and failed talks that have prolonged th ...
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Fox News article
North Korea taps reformist premier amid nuclear tension
Fox News - almost 4 years
North Korea on Monday shifted, at least temporarily, away from weeks of warlike rhetoric, appointing a new premier seen as an economic reformer after a high-level declaration that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy are the nation's top priorities. The U.S., meanwhile, announced its latest conspicuous display of firepower, sending F-22 stealth fighter jets to participate in annual U.S.-South Korean war games that Pyongyang calls preparation for invasion. The new South Korean president, who has a policy meant to re-engage Pyongyang with talks and aid, told her top military leaders Monday to set aside political considerations and respond strongly should North Korea attack. The reemergence of Pak Pong Ju as premier at an annual spring parliamentary session is seen by analysts as a clear signal that leader Kim Jong Un is moving to back up recent statements vowing a focus on strengthened economic development. The U.N. says two-thirds of the country's 24 million people face re ...
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Fox News article
NKorea criticizes SKorea prez's 'swish of skirt'
Fox News - almost 4 years
North Korea's first public, senior-level mention of South Korea's first female president ended up being a sexist crack. The body that controls Pyongyang's military complained Wednesday about the "venomous swish" of her skirt. But despite that swipe, and a continuing torrent of rhetoric from Pyongyang threatening nuclear war and other mayhem, President Park Geun-hye is sticking by her campaign vow to reach out to North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, and to send the country much-needed humanitarian aid. Public frustration with the last five years of North-South relations, which saw North Korean nuclear tests, long-range rocket launches and attacks that left dozens of South Koreans dead, is a big part of the reason Park is trying to build trust with Pyongyang, even as she and South Korea's military promise to respond forcefully to any attack from the North. Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, infuriated North Korea by linking aid and concess ...
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Fox News article
SKorea's new leader faces NKorea nuke crisis
Fox News - about 4 years
Even before she takes office Monday as South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye's campaign vow to soften Seoul's current hard-line approach to rival North Korea is being tested by Pyongyang's recent underground nuclear detonation. Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing and Tokyo are all watching to see if Park, the daughter of a staunchly anti-communist dictator, pursues an ambitious engagement policy meant to ease five years of animosity on the divided peninsula or if she sticks with the tough stance of her fellow conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. Park's decision is important because it will likely set the tone of the larger diplomatic approach that Washington and others take in stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. It will also be complicated by North Korea's warning of unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity," a threat that comes as Washington and others push for ti ...
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Fox News article
New UN resolutions prompt North Korea to issue stark warning to South Korea
Fox News - about 4 years
North Korea issued a stark warning to South Korea Tuesday that if its international allies continue to push for tougher United Nations resolutions, the country would face its "final destruction," The Australian reported. "As the saying goes, 'a newborn puppy knows no fear of a tiger' -- South Korea's erratic behavior could only herald its final destruction," Jon Yong Ryong, the North Korean envoy, told a session of the UN Conference on Disarmament. The report pointed out that the conference is usually a venue where the two countries trade jabs, but North Korea's recent nuclear test adds some urgency to the comments. European Union finance ministers condemned the Feb. 12 nuclear test by North Korea and have imposed trade and economic sanctions on the Asian nation. A statement by the 27 European Union finance ministers, who met Monday in Brussels, said they condemn the test "in the strongest terms" and demand that North Korea abstain from further tests. The statement also urg ...
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Fox News article
S. Korea Says North Won't Abandon Nukes
Voice of America - about 4 years
Outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is warning that dialogue and sanctions will not be enough to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. Speaking at a meeting of high-level dignitaries in Seoul, President Lee said only a change in North Korean leadership could remove the threat of a nuclear-armed Pyongyang. The French news agency quoted Lee as saying that South Korea can "help change the North Korean people, if not the North Korean regime." The ...
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Voice of America article
NKorea brandishing nukes to get US to talk peace
Fox News - about 4 years
The way North Korea sees it, only bigger weapons and more threatening provocations will force Washington to come to the table to discuss what Pyongyang says it really wants: peace. It's no coincidence that North Korea's third underground nuclear test — and by all indications so far its most powerful yet — took place Tuesday on the eve of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. As perplexing as the tactic may seem to the outside world, it serves as an attention-getting reminder to the world that North Korea may be poor but has the power to upset regional security and stability. And the response to its latest provocation was immediate. "The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community," Obama said in a statement hours after the test. "The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies." T ...
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Fox News article
Suu Kyi Meets S. Korea's First Female Leader, Attends Special Olympics
Huffington Post - about 4 years
SEOUL, South Korea -- Both women lost their fathers to gunshots. Both also overcame that tragedy and rose to political prominence in countries where men dominate decision-making, buoyed in part by the legacies of their fathers. Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader whose 2010 release from house arrest signaled the beginning of Myanmar's transition from decades of military rule, met Tuesday in Seoul with Park Geun-hye, who takes office next month as South Korea's first female president. Details were not immediately available. The meeting between two of the most prominent women in Asia spotlights a tragic coincidence in their family history: Suu Kyi's father, Gen. Aung San, was killed by assassins in 1947 while Park's, President Park Chung-hee, was assassinated by his intelligence chief in 1979. Both women have benefited from their late fathers' reputations. Even as she has blazed her own political trail, the 67-year-old Suu Kyi represents to many of the voters ...
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Huffington Post article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Lee Myung-bak
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2013
    Age 71
    He ended his five-year term on 25 February 2013, and was succeeded by Park Geun-hye.
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  • 2012
    Age 70
    In his Liberation Day speech on 15 August 2012, Lee demanded that Japan take "responsible measures" for the comfort women, blaming Japan for violating women's human rights.
    More Details Hide Details Lee and his relatives managed pieces of land in southern Seoul, which was brought up in court in early 2008. Lee was alleged to have been involved in an illegal company named BBK, which brought controversy to South Korea during the election season. BBK co-founder Kim Kyung-joon was investigated for large-scale embezzlement and stock price-fixing schemes. Kim had initially stated that Lee was not involved with the company, and Lee himself denied being associated with BBK. Kim and his wife attempted to implicate Lee in criminal involvement, which was not supported by evidence. Eventually, Kim publicly took sole responsibility, and admitted making false and misleading statements in an attempt to implicate Lee. Lee was declared innocent of all charges by the Supreme Court of Korea. According to Wikileaks, Yoo Chong-ha (유종하), the former co-chairman of Lee's presidential election campaign, requested then American ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, to delay the extraction of the main individual of the BBK embezzlement scandal, Christopher Kim (Kim Kyung-joon), to Korea in order to prevent spreading controversies related to Lee's involvement in the BBK embezzlement scandal during the election season.
    On 14 August 2012, on the eve of Liberation Day, Lee said that the Emperor of Japan Akihito should not visit Korea unless he apologized to the victims of Japan's past colonialism.
    More Details Hide Details He made the statement while speaking at a meeting of education officials. There were no specific plans for such a visit to take place, and Lee had previously been supportive to such a visit. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba both described the statement as "regrettable". A government official speaking to the Asahi Simbun said: "It has made it impossible for a Japanese emperor to visit South Korea for the next 100 years".
    In a speech on 13 August 2012, Lee said that his actions were motivated by a desire to force Japan to settle the comfort women issue.
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    Towards the end of his term in office, Lee began to take actions that caused friction between South Korea and neighboring Japan. On 10 August 2012, Lee flew to the Liancourt Rocks, known as Dokdo or Tokto (독도, literally "solitary island") in Korean, or in Japanese.
    More Details Hide Details He was the first Korean president to do so. Japan temporarily withdrew its ambassador to South Korea Masatoshi Muto, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kōichirō Gemba summoned the South Korean ambassador to file a complaint and threatened to lodge a case with the International Court of Justice, (ICJ) which was rejected by South Korea. It could do so because both countries party to a dispute must agree to such ICJ cases. It was the first time for Japan to make such a move in 47 years, since Japan and South Korea officially re-established relations in 1965. Japan previously proposed bringing the issue to the ICJ in 1954 and 1964.
    His direct and tough policy towards North Korea promoted a negative image of him throughout North Korea. Lee's name became a target practice in the North Korean military as shown through the Korean Central Television on 6 March 2012.
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  • 2011
    Age 69
    President Obama hosted Lee for a day-long state visit and state dinner on 13 October 2011.
    More Details Hide Details Lee also played a role in bringing about the normalization of South Korea's relations with Russia. Furthermore, Lee built relationships with foreign leaders, including former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. On 18 April 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. 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, MBC’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 since been retracted by MBC. 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 variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) is easily transmittable through methods including blood transfusions, eating instant noodles containing beef products and using cosmetics made with cow-derived collagen.
    The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project was a multi-purpose green growth project on the Han River (Korea), Nakdong River, Geum River and Yeongsan River in South Korea. The project was spearheaded by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and was declared complete on 21 October 2011.
    More Details Hide Details The restoration project's aims were to provide or improve water security, improve flood control, and restore ecosystem vitality. It was first announced as part of the “Green New Deal” policy launched in January 2009, and was later included in the government's five-year national plan in July 2009. The government estimated its full investment and funding totaled 22.2 trillion won (approximately $17.3 billion USD). Lee Myung-bak faced strong criticism over his choice of political appointees, many of whom were wealthy. The concern was that Lee's appointees would favor policies that protect the rich, while failing to address the needs of the underprivileged. Another criticism was that these appointees have mostly chosen from the nation's southeast region (Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do), which is known as a GNP stronghold. While the fact that the property owned by high officials, including ministers, increased on average, most of them were legally-obtained and inherited property. Those ministers involved in the allegation of illegal real-estate speculation were already replaced. Hence, the average property owned by the three replaced ministers were only 1.7 billion won. In order to set aside the alleged regional bias, Lee's first cabinet appointment procedure faithfully abided by the principles and rules by appointing four from Seoul and Yeongnam district, three from Honam, Gangwon, and Chungcheong province, and one from North Korea.
    Under the Lee Administration, South Korea successfully concluded a free trade agreement with the European Union on 1 July 2011.
    More Details Hide Details Lee was involved in a surveillance scandal that encouraged both Saenuri Party and the Democratic United Party to put pressure against him.
    Former president, Kim Young-sam expressed negative outlooks on Lee's role as the president and his influence between South Korea and Japan according to a Wikileaks file. As of late 2011, Lee's administration had a series of corruption allegations surrounding certain high-ranking government employees.
    More Details Hide Details The Lee administration introduced a tailor-made educational system and established the National Scholarship Foundation, which offers services such as student loans and loan counseling. In addition, the government promoted an income contingency pay-later plan in order to help out those struggling to pay tuition fees. Teachers were highly critical of these changes, arguing that Lee wanted to turn Korean education into a "free market," while ignoring the underfunding of education in regions outside the Seoul area. 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, with 3.8 billion won each on average. The Lee government planned to use a pool of young Korean Americans for the promotion of after-school English education in public schools in rural areas, with the aim to improve the quality of education. 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. He then attempted to implement a program where all English courses in middle and secondary schools would be taught in English only, which would require the government to educate many teachers in Korea and recruit university students studying abroad in English-speaking countries.
  • 2010
    Age 68
    President Lee succeeded in bringing the Cheonan incident to the forefront in the Chair's Statement for the Asia-Europe Meeting in 2010 at Brussels, drawing member nation support for the South Korean government's stance on North Korea's nuclear issue and stability in Northeast Asia.
    More Details Hide Details In addition, President Lee urged Japanese Prime Minister Kan Naoto to put his words on 15 August, Korea's Liberation Day into action. Regular reunions of the families separated by the Korean War drew attention as an international issue after being included in the Chair's Statement.
    However, businesspeople in their 50s-60s in the construction and real estate sectors withdrew their support of Lee after the 2010 regional election and 2012 presidential election.
    More Details Hide Details Oh Geon-ho (오건호), the head of the Public Policy Institute for People, criticized parts of Mbnomics as "over-financing big private companies" and "worsening the fiscal state of the country". On 7 September 2011, the Blue House officially scrapped plans for a rich tax deduction, marking the foundational end of Mbnomics. The Grand Korean Waterway, officially known as the Pan Korea Grand Waterway, is a proposed long canal, traversing difficult mountainous terrain, connecting Seoul and Busan, two of South Korea's largest cities. The canal would run diagonally across the country, connecting the Han River, which flows through Seoul into the Yellow Sea, to the Nakdong River, which flows through Busan into the Korea Strait.
  • 2009
    Age 67
    President Lee's diplomatic efforts led to an agreement between Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and the UAE on the construction of a USD$20 billion Korean standard nuclear power plant during his visit to the UAE at the end of 2009.
    More Details Hide Details President Lee also held bilateral summits with the leaders of the United States, Japan, and People's Republic of China to discuss North Korean affairs. In the wake of the ROKS Cheonan sinking, a joint declaration was issued by the G-8 leaders condemning the North.
    In 2009 alone, Lee visited 14 countries, including the U.S. and Thailand on 11 occasions and attended 38 summits.
    More Details Hide Details As a result of his efforts, the decision to hold the G-20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010 was passed unanimously at the 2009 Pittsburgh summit. In a historic first, South Korea became the first non-G8 country to take the chairmanship of the forum, and in Toronto, President Lee rallied support for his proposal on creating global financial safety nets and addressing development issues. At the G-20 Summit in Seoul, this led directly to the unanimous endorsement of the Seoul Development Consensus. Under his administration, South Korea was admitted to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Representatives of the DAC member nations met at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretariat in Paris, France, in November 2009, and voted unanimously to admit South Korea as the 24th member. The DAC members provide more than 90 percent of the world's aid for impoverished developing nations, and South Korea is the only member nation that has gone from being an aid beneficiary to a donor.
    Lee accepted an invitation by Obama to visit the United States on 16 June 2009.
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    Multiple news outlets have remarked upon the apparently close friendship between Lee and U.S. President Barack Obama. Despite Lee's wavering support at home, Lee's leadership was lauded by Obama at the 2009 G-20 London summit, where Obama called South Korea "of America's closest allies and greatest friends."
    More Details Hide Details 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.
    In February 2009, President Lee established the Presidential Committee on Green Growth, which absorbed the sustainable development commission and two other committees on energy and climate change under direct authority of the President.
    More Details Hide Details The Five-Year Plan for Green Growth laid out a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 relative to a ‘business-as-usual’ baseline implying a 4 per cent cut from the 2005 level.
  • 2008
    Age 66
    On 7 July 2008, Lee named Ahn Byong-man, a presidential advisor for state future planning, as his new minister of education, science and technology.
    More Details Hide Details Jang Tae-pyoung, a former secretary general of the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption, became 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 had been provided for the cabinet due to many pending issues since the inauguration of the new administration.
    President Lee Myung-bak was a pioneer for Korean environmental and climate policy and laid out an agenda for National Strategy for Green Growth and the Five-Year Plan for Green Growth in 2008.
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    At a special conference held on 19 June 2008, President Lee announced that he would drop the Grand Canal project if the public opposed the idea, and the premier confirmed this statement on 8 September 2008.
    More Details Hide Details Despite this assurance, many now accuse Lee of continuing the canal plan under the guise of "maintenance of the 4 great rivers (4대강 정비사업)."
    Two months after his inauguration, Lee's approval ratings stood at 28%, and by June 2008 they had reached 17%.
    More Details Hide Details U.S. President George W. Bush and Lee also discussed the ratification of the South Korea–United States Free Trade Agreement or KORUS FTA, which faced opposition from legislators in both countries. While Lee's agreement during the summit to partially lift the ban on US beef imports was expected to remove the obstacles in approving the KORUS FTA in the US, many Koreans protested the resumption of U.S. beef imports. 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 protests continued for more than two months, and the original purpose of the candlelight vigils against U.S. beef imports was replaced by others, such as opposition to the privatization of public companies, education policy, and construction of the canal. The damages caused by protesters to the businesses around the demonstration and the social cost reached approximately 3,751,300,000,000 South Korean won.
    Lee was widely considered to be pro-U.S. In mid-April 2008, Lee traveled to the United States for his first official overseas visit to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House and Camp David.
    More Details Hide Details Lee's more aggressive approach towards North Korea was described as a welcome change for Bush, who was often at odds with Roh Moo-hyun. 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," 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 was not to violate 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 prioritizing going forward with the project.
    He took the oath of office on 25 February 2008, vowing to revitalize the economy, strengthen relations with the United States and "deal with" North Korea.
    More Details Hide Details Specifically, Lee declared that he would pursue a campaign of “global diplomacy” and seek further cooperative exchanges with regional neighbors Japan, China, and Russia. He further pledged to strengthen South Korea–United States relations and implement a tougher policy with regard 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.
  • 2007
    Age 65
    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 a landslide.
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    During the 2007 presidential election, questions about his relationship with a company called BBK were raised.
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    In December 2007, a few days before the presidential election, Lee announced that he would donate all of his assets to society.
    More Details Hide Details Lee's stated goals were expressed in the "747 Plan" and included: 7% annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP), $40,000 USD per capita, and transforming Korea into 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 believed would lead to an economic revival. His political opponents criticized the project, saying it was unrealistic and too costly to be realized. Others were concerned about possible negative environmental impact. Signaling a departure from his previous views on North Korea, Lee announced a plan to "engage" North Korea through investment. He 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, and called for the formation of an aid office in North Korea as a way of decoupling humanitarian aid from nuclear talks.
    However, in August 2007, the prosecutors said in the interim announcement, "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."
    More Details Hide Details On 28 September 2007, the prosecutory authority officially dropped the suspicion that the Dogok land was under a borrowed name, announcing, "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."
    On 20 August 2007, he defeated Park Geun-hye in the GNP's primary to become the party's nominee for the 2007 Presidential election.
    More Details Hide Details During the primary, Lee was accused of profiting from illegal speculation on land owned in Dogok-dong, an expensive neighborhood in Seoul.
    On 10 May 2007, Lee officially declared his intention to seek the nomination of the Grand National Party (GNP) as its presidential candidate.
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  • 2002
    Age 60
    In 2002, Lee ran for mayor of Seoul and won.
    More Details Hide Details As Mayor of Seoul, Lee's most noteworthy projects included the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream, 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. Lee worked to transform the area around Seoul City Hall from a concrete traffic circle to a lawn where people could gather. The 2002 FIFA World Cup showed how the area could be used as a cultural space, which came to be known as Seoul Plaza. In May 2004, the tape was cut to open a newly built park in the area, a grassy field where Seoul residents could come to relax and take in cultural performances. A major accomplishment during his term as mayor of Seoul was the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, which now flows through the heart of Seoul and functions as a modern public recreation space.
    Before his election as president, he was the CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction, as well as the mayor of Seoul from 1 July 2002, to 30 June 2006.
    More Details Hide Details He is married to Kim Yoon-ok and has three daughters and one son. His older brother, Lee Sang-deuk, is a South Korean politician. He attends the Somang Presbyterian Church. Lee is a graduate of Korea University and received an honorary degree from Paris Diderot University on 13 May 2011. Lee altered the Japanese-South Korean government's approach to North Korea, preferring a more hardline strategy in the wake of increased provocation from the North, though he was supportive of regional dialogue with Russia, China and Japan. Under Lee, South Korea increased its visibility and influence in the global scene, resulting in the hosting of the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. However, significant controversy remains in Korea regarding high-profile government initiatives which have caused some factions to engage in civil opposition and protest against the incumbent government and President Lee's Saenuri Party (formerly the Grand National Party). The reformist faction within the Saenuri Party is at odds against Lee.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1999
    Age 57
    In 1999, Lee was alleged to have met Kim Kyung-joon and established the LKE Bank with him.
    More Details Hide Details However, this enterprise went bankrupt less than a year later, and 5,500 investors lost substantial amounts of money. BBK co-founder Kim was investigated for large-scale embezzlement and stock price-fixing schemes. Kim had initially stated that Lee was not involved with the company, and Lee himself denied being associated with BBK. Kim and his wife attempted to implicate Lee in criminal involvement, which was not supported by evidence. Eventually, Kim publicly took sole responsibility, and admitted making false and misleading statements in an attempt to implicate Lee.
  • 1998
    Age 56
    Lee resigned in 1998 before being fined USD$6.5 million for breaking election law and forcing Kim to flee.
    More Details Hide Details In the by-election held after his resignation, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as his successor.
  • 1996
    Age 54
    In 1996, Lee was reelected as a member of the Korean National Assembly, representing Jongno-gu in Seoul.
    More Details Hide Details At the election, one of his opponents was another future president, Roh Moo-hyun, who was ranked third place. After he became a second-term lawmaker, his former secretary Kim Yoo-chan disclosed that Lee had spent excessively in his election campaign. After receiving USD$18,000 from Lee, Kim wrote a letter reversing his disclosure and fled the country.
  • 1995
    Age 53
    In 1995, he ran for the city of Seoul's mayoral election, but lost to former prime minister Chung Won-sik during the primary of the Democratic Liberal Party.
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  • 1992
    Age 50
    In 1992, Lee made the transition from business to politics.
    More Details Hide Details 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 his election, he stated that he ran for the office because "after watching Mikhail Gorbachev change the world climate, I wanted to see if there was anything I could do."
  • FORTIES
  • 1988
    Age 46
    In 1988, he was named chairman of Hyundai Construction at the age of 47.
    More Details Hide Details When he began work at Hyundai in 1965, the company had 90 employees; when he left as chairman 27 years later, it had more than 160,000. Soon after the successful completion of the Pattani-Narathiwat Highway by Hyundai Construction, Korea's construction industry began to focus its efforts on encouraging the creation of new markets in countries such as Vietnam and the Middle East. Following the decline of construction demands from Vietnam in the 1960s, Hyundai Construction turned its focus toward the Middle East. The company continued to be a major player in construction projects with the successful completion of international projects including the Arab Shipbuilding & Repair Yard, the Diplomatic Hotel in Bahrain, and the Jubail Industrial Harbor Projects in Saudi Arabia, also known as "the great history of the 20th century". At that time, the amount of orders received by the Korean construction company exceeded US$10 billion, which contributed to overcoming the national crisis resulting from the oil shock.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1968
    Age 26
    Shortly after he was hired by the company, Lee was sent to Thailand to participate in the project, which was successfully completed in March 1968.
    More Details Hide Details Lee returned to Korea and was subsequently given charge of Hyundai's heavy machinery plant in Seoul. It was during his three decades with the Hyundai Group that Lee earned the nickname "Bulldozer". On one occasion, he completely dismantled a malfunctioning bulldozer to study its mechanics and figure out how to repair it. Lee became a company director at the age of 29 – only five years after he joined the company – and CEO at age 35, becoming Korea's youngest CEO ever.
  • 1965
    Age 23
    In 1965, Lee started work at Hyundai Construction, the company which was awarded Korea's first-ever overseas construction project, a $5.2 million contract to build the Pattani-Narathiwat Highway in Thailand and china.
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  • 1964
    Age 22
    Lee attended night school at Dongji Commercial High School in Pohang and received a 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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' imprisonment by the Supreme Court of South Korea. He served a little under three months of his sentence at the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul. In his autobiography, Lee wrote that he was discharged from Korea's mandatory military service due to a diagnosis of acute bronchiectasis while at the Nonsan Training Facility.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1945
    Age 3
    In 1945, after the end of World War II, his family returned to his father's hometown of Pohang, in Gyeongsangbuk-do in the American-occupied portion of the Korean Peninsula.
    More Details Hide Details Lee's sister, Lee Ki-sun, believed that they smuggled themselves into the country in order to avoid having the officials confiscate the property they acquired in Japan. However, their ship was wrecked off the coast of Tsushima island. They lost all their belongings and barely survived.
  • 1941
    Born
    Lee Myung-bak was born 19 December 1941, in Osaka, Japan.
    More Details Hide Details His parents had emigrated to Japan in 1929, nineteen years after the Japanese annexation of Korea. Lee's father, Lee Chung-u (이충우; 李忠雨), was employed as a farmhand on a cattle ranch in Japan, and his mother, Chae Taewon (채태원; 蔡太元), was a housewife. He was the fifth of his parents' four sons and three daughters.
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