Lee Myung-bak (Hangul: 이명박; /ˌmjʌŋ ˈbɑːk/; Korean: [i.mjʌŋ.bak̚]; born 19 December 1941) is a South Korean former politician and businessman who served as President of South Korea from 2008 to 2013. 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. 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 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. He ended his five-year term on 24 February 2013, and was succeeded by Park Geun-hye.
On March 22, 2018, Lee was arrested on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and tax evasion alleged to have occurred during his presidency. Prosecutors accused Lee of receiving bribes totaling 11 billion won and channeling assets of 35 billion won to an illicit slush fund. Shortly before his arrest, Lee posted a handwritten statement on Facebook denying the charges. Lee's arrest occurred roughly a year after the arrest of former president Park Geun-Hye, who was arrested on charges stemming from the 2016 South Korean political scandal. Lee was convicted on October 5, 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
|President of South Korea|
25 February 2008 – 24 February 2013
|Prime Minister||Han Seung-soo|
Yoon Jeung-hyun (acting)
|Preceded by||Roh Moo-hyun|
|Succeeded by||Park Geun-hye|
|Mayor of Seoul|
1 July 2002 – 30 June 2006
|Preceded by||Goh Kun|
|Succeeded by||Oh Se-hoon|
|Member of the National Assembly|
30 May 1996 – 21 February 1998
|Preceded by||Lee Jong-chan|
|Succeeded by||Roh Moo-hyun|
30 May 1992 – 29 May 1996
|Born||19 December 1941|
Osaka, Empire of Japan
Kim Yoon-ok (m. 1970)
|Children||Joo-yeon (daughter, 1971)|
Seung-yeon (daughter, 1973)
Soo-yeon (daughter, 1975)
Si-hyung (son, 1978)
|Alma mater||Korea University (B.B.A.)|
|Revised Romanization||I Myeongbak|
Lee Myung-bak was born 19 December 1941, in Osaka, Japan. 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 farm labourer in rural Japan, and his mother, Chae Taewon (채태원; 蔡太元), was a housewife. He was the fifth of seven children.
In 1945, after the end of World War II, his family returned to his father's hometown of Pohang, in Gyeongsangbuk-do, which was then an American-occupied portion of the Korean Peninsula. 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.
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. 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 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. 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. 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 "Raging Bulldozer". On one occasion, he completely dismantled a malfunctioning bulldozer to study its mechanics and figure out how to repair it, only to run it over with another Bulldozer that was often operated by Lee himself.
Lee became a company director at the age of 29,five years after he joined the company. He later became the CEO at age 35, becoming Korea's youngest CEO in history. In 1988, he was named chairman of Hyundai Construction at the age of 47.
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.
He left Hyundai after a 27-year career, and decided to enter politics.
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 his election, he stated that he ran for the office because "after watching Mikhail Gorbachev change the world, I wanted to see if I could do the same." In 1995, he ran for the city of Seoul's mayoral election, but viciously lost to former prime minister Chung Won-sik during the primary of the Democratic Liberal Party.
In 1996, Lee was reelected as a member of the Korean National Assembly, representing Jongno-gu in Seoul. At the election, one of his opponents was the 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, often at the expense of taxpayers outside of his district. After receiving USD$18,000 from Lee, Kim wrote a letter reversing his disclosure and fled to Tajikistan. Lee resigned in 1998 before being fined USD$6.5 million for breaking election law and forcing Kim to flee. In the by-election held after his resignation, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as his successor.
In 2002, Lee ran for mayor of Seoul and won. As the 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 and make Korea great again. The 2002 FIFA World Cup showed how the area could be used as a homogeneous 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 for people of all ages.
On 10 May 2007, Lee officially declared his intention to seek the nomination of the Grand National Party (GNP) as its presidential candidate. 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. During the primary, Lee was accused of profiting from illegal speculation on land owned in Dogok-dong, an expensive neighborhood in Seoul. 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." 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." In December 2007, a few days before the presidential election, Lee announced that he would donate all of his assets to society.
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.
During the 2007 presidential election, questions about his relationship with a company called BBK were raised. In 1999, Lee was alleged to have met an American and established the LKE Bank with him. However, this enterprise went bankrupt less than a year later. The corrupt Korean prosecutors manipulated BBK case so that Lee was found not to be guilty. However, in 2018 Lee was arrested for charges related to BBK. Although, the prosecutor claimed in 2007 that Lee had nothing to do with DAS, a corporation that funded BBK, in 2018 the same prosecution office found that DAS is owned and controlled by Lee. The victim of tragic BBK case is the Korean American man and whose family that Korean prosecutors and politicians used for their own benefit.
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. 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. 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.
Two months after his inauguration, Lee's approval ratings stood at 28%, and by June 2008 they had reached 17%. 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.
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.
Lee's approval ratings reflected public perception of Korea's economic situation in the wake of the global economic meltdown. Signs of a strengthening economy and a landmark $40 billion deal won by a Korean consortium to build nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates boosted Lee's popularity. His approval rating in January 2010 stood at 51.6%.
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.
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.
"Mbnomics" is the term applied to Lee's macroeconomic policy. The term is a portmanteau derived by combining his initials (Myung-bak, Mb) and the term economics (-nomics) to form "Mbnomics". Kang Man-Soo, the Minister of Strategy and Finance, is credited with coining the term and the design of Mbnomics.
The centerpiece of Lee's economic revitalization was his "Korea 7·4·7" plan. The plan took its name 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 put it, his government is mandated with creating a new Korea where "the people are affluent, society is warm and the state strong." To this end, he planned to follow a pragmatic, market-friendly strategy: smart market economy, empirical pragmatism, and democratic activism.
Lee wanted to move to low-carbon growth in coming decades. The government hoped to be a bridge between rich and poor countries in fighting global warming by setting itself goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved by 2020. In connection with the recent financial shock from the United States, President Lee emphasized the importance of solid cooperation between political and business circles. He proposed a tripartite meeting among the finance ministers of South Korea, Japan, and China aimed at coordinating policies to cope with the credit crisis.
Around early 2011, Mbnomics gained a negative reputation due to tax reduction plans for the rich, the failure to privatize or merge national banks, and failure to provide affordable housing. The middle-aged and senior Korean population usually supported Lee Myung-bak. 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.
The Grand Korean Waterway, officially known as the Pan Korea Grand Waterway, is a proposed 540-kilometer (340 mi) 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.
Few opponents of the project argue that, during the construction process, damage to the environment could be caused by the concrete facility. However, one study states that when environmentally friendly methods of construction (like "swamp-restoration") are adopted, there will be a net positive effect (such as improving the Han River). Buddhist groups have voiced fears that it would submerge nearby Buddhist relics, which would cause irreparable damage to a significant portion of Korea's cultural legacy. On the other hand, some say that once the Kyungboo Canal is developed, another 177 cultural assets could be discovered during excavations, which could be used for a tourist attraction. In particular, the development of the canal would increase the accessibility to cultural assets that are far to reach, and hence more efficient management of those assets would be possible. Lee's promise to build the Grand Korean Waterway stalled due to low public opinion.
If successful, Lee maintained that 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. 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." 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. Despite this assurance, many now accuse Lee of continuing the canal plan under the guise of "maintenance of the 4 great rivers (4대강 정비사업)."
President Lee Myung-bak laid out an agenda for National Strategy for Green Growth and the Five-Year Plan for Green Growth in 2008. 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. 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.
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. 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).
Although, former president Lee claimed that the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project was Eco-friendly, its results face severe criticism from environmental experts both inside and outside of the government. It is well described in the report in Hankyoreh, August 2013. The algae known to kill eco system of a river proliferated during summer season for many years and experts suspect it is because of weirs that slow or stop water flow. Furthermore, water quality near the Nakdong river deteriorated significantly after weirs were installed. The government already spent more than 3 trillion Korean won to keep the water potable as of August 2013.
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.
Moreover, Lee's administration increased the welfare budget by 9% to help the poorest maintain the living and middle class's stability, and pursued many more policies for the benefit of the public than the former government. His administration further claimed that the tax reforms undertaken, including the comprehensive property tax cut was not to benefit the wealthy and the haves, but to correct a wrongful tax according to the market principle. Lee also had to face corruption charges leveled at his administration. Three appointees resigned amid suspicions of corruption, and his top intelligence chief and anticorruption aide faced accusations that they received bribes from The Samsung Group. Both Samsung and Lee denied the charges. Those involved in the allegation of receiving bribes from Samsung group have been cleared of charges after special prosecutory investigation.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. Lee also gave assurances that both the U.S. and South Korea would use dialogue to end the crisis.
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 "[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 16 June 2009. President Obama hosted Lee for a day-long state visit and state dinner on 13 October 2011.
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 Communist Party general secretary Jiang Zemin and former Soviet Union Communist Party general secretary 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.  People's roar in an Internet community, Agora, also helped demonstrations to demand the renegotiation of the terms of the import deal. 
As public anger continued to snowball, citizens 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.
In an interview, Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun said that the policy would 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."
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.
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 at approximately 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.
On 4 July 2011, during a mass rally in Pyongyang, Lee and his government were strongly criticized as traitors by spokesmen for the Korean People's Army and other elements of North Korean society. The Korean People's Army called for dealing "merciless deadly blows at the enemies till they are wiped out to the last man."
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.
On 5 May 2012, the Pyongyang Times newspaper published stories and pictures of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) workers threatening to "wipe out" the Lee clan. The workers were upset at Lee for "having defiled the DPRK's supreme dignity when all the fellow countrymen were celebrating the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il-sung."
President Lee embraced an aggressive approach to foreign policy, driving initiatives such as Green Korea and Global Korea. President Lee conducted frequent state visits to other countries and extended invitations to foreign counterparts to visit Korea from the time he took office. In 2009 alone, Lee visited 14 countries, including the U.S. and Thailand on 11 occasions and attended 38 summits.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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 Takeshima (たけしま/竹島, literally "bamboo island") in Japanese. 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.
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. 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".
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-founders were investigated for large-scale embezzlement and stock price-fixing schemes. They had initially stated that Lee was not involved with the company, and Lee himself denied being associated with BBK. They attempted to implicate Lee in criminal involvement, which was not supported by evidence. He never admitted any wrongdoings, but the Korean press, controlled by Lee, made false report that he did. Lee was declared innocent of all charges by the Supreme Court of Korea. However, that was because the Korean prosecutors manipulated the case. In 2018, Lee was arrested and his involvement in BBK and DAS was confirmed by the same prosecutor's office. 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 to Korea in order to prevent spreading controversies related to Lee's involvement in the BBK embezzlement scandal during the election season.
Lee's acquisition of a house in Seocho-gu's Naegok-dong under his son's name caused a problem. One of the candidate lands that he sought was a green belt area, which could cause contradiction about his "eco-friendly" governance. This spurred many controversies. For instance, a female lobbyist-like civilian with the family name of Yoo was involved in this Naegok-dong deal with Lee's family members. She moved to the U.S. to avoid possible arrest.
Lee purchased the land under his son's name, which could potentially violate South Korean real estate laws. The prosecutors formally proposed to investigate President Lee's son, who was also involved in the contract.
The Seoul municipal government under Mayor Park Won-soon proposed demolition of a building in Hyoja-dong, Jongno-gu called the Blue House Sarangchae (청와대 사랑채) that politically promoted President Lee, due to the unfair usage of the city of Seoul taxpayers' money in the building.
There were criticism of Lee's nepotism for his older brother, Lee Sang-deuk, whose personal aide was charged for taking $0.5 ~ $0.6 million from SLS Group. Lee Sang-deuk himself also served 14 months prison time for taking bribes from Solomon Supreme Prosecutors for extorting funds for the Four Major Rivers Project.
Lee was detained on the March 22nd, 2018 on charges of receiving 11 billion Korean won (~$10 million USD) worth of bribes and slush funds worth 35 billion Korean won (~$33 million USD).
He is accused of taking bribes from Samsung of nearly $6 million in exchange for a presidential pardon for Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee who was in prison for tax evasion and stock fraud. It is alleged that this money was used to pay legal fees for DAS, a car-parts manufacturing firm owned by Lee's brother.
Lee is also accused of embezzling $700k of government money that was initially set aside for Seoul's intelligence agency.
In early April he was indicted on graft charges.
On October 5, 2018 Lee was convicted on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay a 13 billion won ($11.5m; £8.8m) fine.
Translation: "Our father once used the Japanese surname Tsukiyama (月山) during the Japanese Colonial Period" said the National Assembly Vice Speaker Lee Sang-deuk, in which he is also known as the older brother of the former Mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak, as he also revealed that "Former Mayor Lee kept using the Japanese surname that our father used for some time after 1941". He mentioned "it was inevitable to change the surname, in which our father was a poor commoner like the majority of Koreans back then. It was sad part of the nation," during a recent interview from Shin Donga.
The powerful revolutionary army of Mt. Paektu has never made an empty talk. It is the spirit and courage of the KPA to deal merciless deadly blows at the enemies till they are wiped out to the last man.
|National Assembly of South Korea|
| Member of the National Assembly
from Jongno District
| Mayor of Seoul
| President of South Korea
| Chairperson of the Group of 20
Presidential elections were held in South Korea on 19 December 2007. The election was won by Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party, returning conservatives to the Blue House for the first time in ten years. Lee defeated United New Democratic nominee Chung Dong-young and independent Lee Hoi-chang by the largest margin since direct elections were reintroduced in 1987. It also marked the first time a president-elect in Korea was under investigation by a prosecutor. Voter turnout was 63.0%, an all-time low according to the National Election Commission.2008 Grand National Party Convention bribery incident
The 2008 Grand National Party Convention is a political scandal in the South Korean politics that exposed higher-level political corruption within the ranks of the Lee Myung-bak government. The connections surrounding the Lee Myung-bak government has also affected the performance of the Grand National Party. A GNP lawmaker, Koh Seung-duk, was instrumental of exposing it by reporting his knowledge about the corruption incident to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.2012 NIS public opinion manipulation scandal
2012 NIS public opinion manipulation scandal around the 2012 South Korean presidential election that includes two major allegations. First, a female agent was claimed to have manipulated public opinion to help Park Geun-hye's presidential election under the command of the NIS. Second, the director of National Intelligence Service commanded a NIS agent to manipulate public opinion.
The first allegation was claimed before South Korean presidential election, 2012, but it was unverified before the election. Even though the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency found this allegation was true before the election, the police chief Kim Yong-pan ordered Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency not to announce the evidences. The Agency announced that they did not find any illegal activities, which is against the collected evidences, three days before the election, which turned out to have a substantial impact on the election.Democratic United Party claimed that the NIS manipulated public opinion in support for Park Geun-hye's presidential campaign on December 11.
After the election, the South Korean Police alleged that an agent of Korean National Intelligence Service, Kim Ha Young, posted articles and cast votes to articles on politically sensitive topics in the Todayhumor website.On April 30, prosecutors raided the headquarters of the South Korean National Intelligence Service.On June 12, the head of the South Korean National Intelligence Service Won Sei-hoon and the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Kim Yong-pan were prosecuted for interfering in the election. In 2015 Supreme Court acquitted Kim of charges of abusing his power to manipulate the investigation.In 2016, a prosecutors' investigation had turned up evidence that the NIS has been effectively orchestrating the activities of conservative groups since the administration of former president Lee Myung-bak (2008–2013). The evidence shows that the NIS has been involved not only in political advertisements that conservative groups have run in newspapers but also in their plans to hold one-person protests and to hand out pamphlets. "An agent surnamed Park who was on the NIS's psychological warfare team supported and supervised right-wing conservative organizations and right-wing youth organizations.”747 Plan
The 747 Plan was a set of economic pledges in the 2007 campaign of Lee Myung-bak, who was elected President of South Korea. He held office from 2008 to 2013 but failed to achieve the goals.Named after the Boeing 747 aircraft, the plan pledged 7 percent economic growth, raising per capita GDP to US$40,000, and making Korea the world's seventh-largest economy.Lee's Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo is credited with the creation and design of the plan.At the beginning of Lee's presidency, Korea was not among the ten largest economies and had per capita GDP of under US$20,000. Within months of him taking office, the plan's success was jeopardized by the financial crisis of 2007–08 and ensuing global recession.
Eventually, the 747 Plan proved unsuccessful.Chung Dong-young
Chung Dong-young (born 27 July 1953 in Sunchang County, North Jeolla) is a politician and was the United New Democratic Party nominee for President of South Korea in 2007.
From April 2004 until December 2005, Chung was the South Korean Minister of Unification. Before holding that post, he served two terms in the National Assembly with the National Congress for New Politics and the Millennium Democratic Party, respectively; has twice been chairman of the Uri Party; and was considered a strong contender to succeed Roh Moo-hyun as president. Like Roh, Chung is also a Roman Catholic.He has a bachelor's degree in Korean History from Seoul National University (1979) and master's from the University of Wales, and before entering politics, he was a journalist and anchor at the Politics Section of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. He served as a anchor at MBC Newsdesk from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
During his tenure as Unification Minister, Chung was a strong supporter of the Sunshine Policy. One of his uncontroversial achievements is the foundation of Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is an exclusive industrial zone set up on the southernmost province of North Korea, Keasong. The establishment of the complex, by allowing South Korean small and middle sized companies hiring cheap labors from North Korea brought synergetic effect on the South Korean economy. The complex is now reputed to have promoted peace on the Korean peninsula and to have served as "the bastion of peace" whenever the North and South relationship is strained. Some people criticize that he has not taken a tougher stance on North Korea, and that he had rhetorical clashes with the United States that helped weaken relations between the two countries. He was once accused of attempting to distract reporters from a meeting of activists for human rights in North Korea. However, some of the criticisms are biased by the one-sided political perspective from the people who support the hard-line approach to North Korea. The contention that he had impeded on the relationship between South Korea and the United States can be counter proven by the process he had made the Keasong Complex realized. The Keasong Complex could not have made possible unless the then Bush administer had authorized the approve of foreign materials flowing into North Korea. The realization of the complex in the middle of hawk driven period of "axis of evil" can only be correctly explained by the quick and wide approach by the then Unification Ministry and the minister Chung to convince the US government and the Korean counterpart.In March 2007, while visiting the North Korean town of Kaesong where South Korean companies are set up, he proposed that an inter-Korean summit be organized there. However, since he had lost the presidential election that year, under the Lee Myung-bak government it never materialized.
On October 15, 2007, the United New Democratic Party announced that Chung won about 44 percent of the votes in the party primary, beating two other candidates, to become the party's candidate for the presidential elections that year.Chung, however, lost the elections to the opposition's Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak by the widest margin since direct elections began in 1987. The loss was attributed primarily to the people's disappointment of the economic situation and its dealings and continuous political strife under the Roh Mu-hyun government as well as the unsuccessful campaign strategies that overly relied on criticizing the other candidate, Lee Myung-bak. The issue of the presidential election in 2007 was predominantly about determining truth of the implication of the presidential candidate Lee Myung bak in the allegation of the investment advisory firm BBK ltd. which had then been accused of large scale stock price manipulation that hurt thousands of individual investors. The primary issue was to prove that he was the real owner of the company.
Lee strongly denied the claim even thought there have been plenty of evidence he was at least closely related to the heads of the company and even there was a video tape showing he claiming himself to be the owner of the company. However, any hearings or legal trials of the case had not realized during the presidential election period and obviously after Lee become the president the case lost its force despite the wide public attention to it. Let alone the case, Lee Myung-bak was previously committed fourteen different cases of violations or crimes. However, the widespread perception of the people that the new president has to be the one who can efficiently control the economy has given him the strong edge over the opponent candidate. Evidently, the legitimacy of the president was an issue from the perspective of Chung and Chung's party. He stated that should the turnout for the presidential elections be under 50% that the legitimacy of the result may be an issue. However, the voter turnout was 62.9%.
Earlier, Chung also criticized opposition leader Park Geun-hye of the Grand National Party that they exploited the event to make an image that she is a victim to emotionally move the voters by immediately campaigning during that party's primaries after her recovery from an attack by a man who slashed her face with a small knife. Later, he attributed the downfall of his party in the poll to the attack.Predictably, the Uri Party suffered a major defeat in the elections in which the opposition Grand National Party took 13 of the 16 provinces and major cities.Chung Doo-un
Chung Doo-un (정두언, born 6 March 1957) is a South Korean politician who was Vice-Mayor of Seoul from 2000 to 2003.
Chung, along with Chu ho-young and Park Hyung-jun, was a close associate of President Lee Myung-bak but later became critical of him and the leadership of the Grand National Party after Lee's election. On 26 August 2011, he described Lee Myung-bak's fair society governance as a failure due to the prime minister-led surveillance against civilians in 2010.The Minjoo party's Kim Young-ho took his seat in the National Assembly at the 20th general election, held on 13 April 2016.Financial Services Commission (South Korea)
The Financial Services Commission (FSC), formerly Financial Supervisory Commission, is South Korean government's top financial regulator. It makes financial policies, and directs the Financial Supervisory Service.
The Financial Supervisory Commission was established in 1998. With the start of Lee Myung-bak administration, the Commission was rearranged into the Financial Services Commission; the new one took over the policy-making authority from the Finance Ministry.Jeon Yeo-ok
Jeon Yeo-ok (born on April 9, 1959) is a conservative female South Korean politician who came from a journalist background. Of a pro-Lee Myung-bak background, she is known for expressing unsatisfying discontent against Park Geun-hye who regained control of the Saenuri Party (formally the Grand National Party). She was not nominated during the party nomination process for the 2012 legislative election as one of the close supporters of Lee Myung-bak. Until then, she was considered as the main rival of Park Geun-hye.Kim Jae-ho
Kim Jae-ho (born 1963) is a South Korean judge who is the husband of Na Kyung-won, a conservative politician. He graduated from Seoul National University.Kim Yoon-ok
Kim Yoon-ok (Hangul: 김윤옥; Hanja: 金潤玉; born March 26, 1947) is a South Korean academic administrator who was the First Lady of the Republic of Korea.Korea Communications Commission
Korea Communications Commission (Hangul: 대한민국 방송통신위원회; Hanja: 大韓民國 放送通信委員會; RR: Daehanminguk Bangsongtongsin Wiwonhoe) is a South Korean media regulation agency modeled after the Federal Communications Commission of the United States of America. It was established on February 29, 2008, combining the former Korean Broadcasting Commission and the Ministry of Information and Communication. The five members of the Commissioners make a decision. The current Chairman, among the five Commissioners, is Choi Sung-joon.Lee Myung-bak government
The Lee Myung-bak government (Hangul: 이명박 정부; Hanja: 李明博 政府, RR: I Myeong-bak Jeongbu) was the fifth government of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. It took office on 25 February 2008 after Lee Myung-bak's victory in the 2007 presidential elections. Most of the new cabinet was approved by the National Assembly on 29 February. Led by President Lee Myung-bak, it was supported principally by the conservative Saenuri Party, previously known as the Grand National Party. It was also known as Silyong Jeongbu (Hangul: 실용정부; Hanja: 實用政府), the "pragmatic government", a name deriving from Lee's campaign slogan.
A provisional committee established shortly before the government's inauguration presented proposals with the intention of creating a more compact government. The main objective of the administration was cited in 2011 as "the foundation of micro-government and macro-market ideas to revive the economy". Politically, the administration was marked by an ongoing internal dispute between the factions of Lee and Park Geun-hye within the ruling party after an intense contest between the two in the primaries preceding the 2007 elections. The government presided over issues such as the South Korea foot-and-mouth outbreak, the ratification of the South Korea–United States Free Trade Agreement, the 2011 South Korean university tuition crisis and the Jeju-do Naval Base.
The Lee Myung-bak government ended on 25 February 2013 with the inauguration of Park Geun-hye as President.Lee Myung-bak rat poster incident
In the Lee Myung-bak rat poster incident in Seoul, South Korea, university instructor Park Jeong-su (박정수) was indicted by the South Korean authorities for drawing a face of a rat on a promotional poster for the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. This caused criticism of the conservative Lee Myung-bak government for encouraging institutionalized censorship and abuse of authority. The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea (SPO) was criticized for being overly-supportive of the Blue House.Lee Sang-deuk
Lee Sang-deuk (born November 29, 1935) is a South Korean politician and businessperson. He is well known as the older brother of the former South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. He was a member of the conservative Saenuri Party in the National Assembly. He was convicted of bribery in 2013, and is currently serving a one-year prison sentence.Lee Sang-don
Lee Sang-don (born December 4, 1951) is a South Korean legal scholar and a conservative political activist. He currently works as a professor at Chung-Ang University. He is a conservative pundit well known for expressing criticisms towards the Lee Myung-bak government. He received criticisms from a group of pro-Lee Myung-bak lawmakers for participating in the restructure of the Saenuri Party (formally Grand National Party) in the past due to his distance with Lee Myung-bak. He is currently the political reformer for the Saenuri Party under Park Geun-hye.
He is currently a member of the People's Party and has been elected in 2016 to serve as member of the National Assembly of Korea.MOFAT Diamond scandal
The MOFAT Diamond Scandal was exposed around early January 2012, in which the ambassador of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Eun-seok, leaked an information on his illegal purchase of stocks of a mining firm called CNK International by falsifying information of a diamond reserve in Cameroon. This incident generated criticisms against the Lee Myung-bak government. The scope of the investigation later spread to other senior South Korean public officials.Na Kyung-won
Na Kyung-won (나경원, born 6 December 1963) is a South Korean politician and lawyer. She was a member of the conservative Saenuri Party (formerly the Grand National Party).Naneun Ggomsuda
Naneun Ggomsuda (Korean: 나는 꼼수다), also known as Naggomsu (Korean: 나꼼수) or in English as I'm a weasel is a popular South Korean political podcast under the internet newspaper, Ddanzi Ilbo. Naneun Ggomsuda is famous for lampooning the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. The hosts of Naneun Ggomsuda humorously call Lee Myung-bak as His Excellency or Gaka (각하) in Korean as a sarcastic title. They have also made a satire song (based on a Christian hymn, Nearer, My God, to Thee) about Lee's disputes on his Naegok-dong property purchase. Kim Ou joon (김어준) was the original creator of Naneun Ggomsuda and currently runs Papa is (파파이스) and News factory (뉴스공장)South Korean illegal surveillance incident
The South Korean illegal surveillance incident (Korean: 민간인 불법사찰 사건, or illegal civilian surveillance incident) was alleged to have occurred in 2010 when the Civil Service Ethics Division (공직윤리지원관실) under the Prime Minister's Office of South Korea inspected a civilian, a political action that is illegal under the South Korean conventions. The incident re-emerged in early 2012 as the election approached.
|Provisional Governments (Pre-Union) (1919)|
|Provisional Government (1919–1948)|
|First Republic (1948–1960)|
Syngman Rhee • Heo Jeong
|Second Republic (1960–1961)|
Gwak Sang-hun • Heo Jeong • Paek Nak-jun • Yun Posun
|Military Junta (1961–1963)|
|Third Republic (1963–1972)|
|Fourth Republic (1972–1981)|
|Fifth Republic (1981–1988)|
|Sixth Republic (1988–present)|
Italics indicate an acting president
†Impeached, but restored to office
Grand National Party / Saenuri Party / Liberty Korea Party (1997–present)