- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Squinty-ness
- Official Title: President
- Government: Well-established democracy
- Years Left in Office: To 2013; no re-election possible
- Political Classification: Center-right
- Education: BA in Business Administration
- Age: 78 (born December 19, 1941)
Lee Myung-bak Facts and Information
Lee Myung-bak, the 10th president of South Korea was not actually born in Korea. Say what!?! The oh-so conservative South Korea elected someone that wasn’t born in Korea be its president? What has the world come to? Hold your horses: he is still Korean. You see, President Lee was born in 1941, well into the Japanese annexation of the Korean Peninsula. His parents had moved to Japan most likely to escape hard times in their homeland, as his father was employed as a farm hand so that he could support his wife and seven, yes, SEVEN children. Of course, when World War II ended in 1945, the Lee family moved ‘bak’ to South Korea before their land was confiscated by the then bitter Japanese officials. But, get this: on their covert mission back to Korea on a ship, the ship wrecked and the family just barely made it back home safely!
You think that that is interesting? Just you wait. I haven’t even arrived at the good part of this crazy story. You see, he was involved in protests against President Park Ching-hee’s “Seoul-Tokyo Talks,” which were an attempt at gaining compensation for Japan’s war crimes against South Korea. He was charged with “plotting insurrection,” and he even served a three years in prison for his crime.
So, after the political unrest of his youth, he started work at Hyundai Construction, where he earned the ever-awesome nick-name Bulldozer. Why? Did he move large masses from one place to another with his bare hands? Unfortunately, no. He instead completely took apart a bulldozer just to study the machine and learn how to repair it. Why am I telling you this story? Why does it have anything to do with his success as a president? I think that it shows that he is extremely dedicated to his work, and when he became CEO just 5 years after joining the company, it is obvious that Hyundai Construction thought so too.
On top of all of that awesomeness, he decided to conquer the political system of his country as well. First, he started out as the Major of Seoul, where he restored the Cheonggyecheon stream, created the Seoul Forest, and added rapid transit buses to the public transportation system in Seoul. So, now you’re telling me that he is a bad-ass that went to prison for protests, went to the top of the business ladder, AND he is interested in looking out for the environment? Really? This guy must be a liberal commi, no?
Well, actually, Lee Myung-bak quit his bull-dozer disassembling days of business and proceeded to join the Grand National Party and become the mayor of Seoul. Does his political party sound familiar? Well, it should, as it kind of sounds like the Grand Old Party, given that the Grand National Party. But, the Grand National Party is actually liberal, though not quite as liberal as his predecessor. When this “bulldozer” of this businessman-turned-politician was elected president, he won by a landslide, and some might say for good reason. You see, three days before the election, Lee Myung-bak promised to give all of his assets to society, and he wanted to ensure that South Korea would become the 7th largest economy in the world. Thus, he earned the young votes and won the election.
So, now you must be thinking that he is the most awesome president that the world has ever seen, right? Well, if you asked the average Korean, you might not hear that answer from them, exactly. For starters, sometime in his young-adult life, Lee Myung-bak was excused from the mandatory Korean military service, usually lasting for two years. Many wealthy people have been known to get out of it, but did he get out of his for a legitimate lung issue? Who knows, but it smells a little fishy to me. But as to his presidential career, from every great president, there is always a blemish. President Lee’s blemish just may be so large that South Korean citizens cannot wait for him to leave office in December. Why? His 5-year presidential term is full of corruption and scandals that may or may not rival President Nixon. For starters, his older brother was arrested for taking about $525,000 in bribes from banks. Then, two of his former aids were arrested for taking bribes from banks as well. To top it all off, some of his closest acquaintances were charged with some sort of corruption. With all of his friends and advisors being arrested for corruption, don’t you think that President Lee is corrupt too? Maybe, or maybe not, but the evidence is against him for sure.
In addition to the corruption fiascos, he has been called “Pro-American” and even, the most shocking “Pro-Japanese.” And, if you remember the extremely Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, you’d know that this could be the worst Korean burn. The reason that he was called these names was not because of the fact that he was born in Japan, or because he is surrounded by what seems to be a large group of corrupt people, but because he actually wanted to cooperate with Japan! Now, you may be thinking: what kind of traitorous action is this? But, if you look into it more closely, you can see that he was trying to make sure that he could trust Japan to swap information on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and China’s military growth.
What is ever more significant about Lee Myung-bak is that his foreign policy completely contradicts his predecessor. Where President Lee wants to protect South Korea from the North Korean threat, the previous president, Roh Moo-hyun wanted to become an ally with North Korea. Needless to say, tensions between the two Koreas have increased in President Lee’s term, with the attack on Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, which killed two civilians and two marines.
So, what do you think? Is he a good president? Is he exactly what Korea needs right now? Is he a corrupt anti-nationalist that wishes he was Japanese? That is up for you to decide, but I’d say that you should ask the nearest South Korean. Or, you could just notice that K-pop has boomed under his presidency. Was it his policy that made PSY and Girls Generation famous on the world stage? Probably not, but that won’t keep me from jamming to 4men and Navi anytime soon.