Lee Myung-bak wins Presidential
election with a 5.2 million margin
By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher-editor of The Korea Post
Presidential Candidate Lee Myung-bak of the major opposition Grand National Party (GNP) made a landslide victory at the election of the 17th-term President of the Republic of Korea on Dec. 19, 2007 collecting nearly one half of the total number of votes cast (10,981,993 votes [or 48.5%] defeating Presidential Candidate Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party (UNDP) who won a little over one half of Lee MB’s with only 5,965,019 votes (or 26.3% of the total).
When the votes won by the out-and-out independent conservative Candidate Lee Hoi-chang (3,398,320 or 15.1%) are added, the total share of the support won by the conservative camp comes to over 63%.
The fourth place went to Presidential Candidate Moon Kook- hyun of the Creative Korea Party with 1,301,022 votes (5.8%) and Moon was followed by Kwon Young-gil of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) with 677,016 votes (3%) and Rhee In-je of the Democratic Party (DP) with 154,899 votes (0.7%). The others were Independent Candidates Heo Kyung- young 96,6787 votes (0.4%), Kum Min 18,182 votes (0.1%), Chung Kun-mo 15,332 votes (0.1%), and Jun Kwan 7,150 votes (0%).
Lee MB's victory is interpreted as reflecting the desire of the Korean people to put an end to the 10 years of rule by the left-leaning governments of President Roh Moo-hyun and former President Kim Dae-jung.
There have been many negative factors against Lee MB such as the BBK case and personal integrity problems, but the people obviously chose economic recovery and growth rather than cleanliness for their leader.
The story of Lee Myung-bak is a true saga of success of a person who has risen rags to the top leader of the country from extreme poverty, making fast promotions as a business company employee to the position of a CEO before his entry in the political arena in Korea.
Speaking to the nation immediately after his victory became obvious by exit surveys, he said, "I will not try to lead the people but follow them and I will work for them as a servant fulfilling their wishes rather than be above them."
Another reason for Lee MB to win the Presidential election is the failure on the part of the candidates of the non-GNP camp to choose a single candidate to compete with Lee MB.
The first failure of the non-GNP was its inability to fully support the front-running Presidential hopeful, former Prime Minister Goh Kun, and the second mistake it made was to drop Sohn Hak-kyu who also led the race inside the non-GNP camp far beyond the rating of Chung DY.
The UNDP (main force of the non-GNP camp), however, chose the runner-up Chung Dong-young instead of the front-runner Sohn due to the party peculiar mechanism and factionalism in the UNDP divided among pro-Roh Moo-hyun group, middle-of-the- roaders and pragmatists. In fact, Goh Kun had the better of Lee MB at opinion polls and was considered the surest bet for the next President after Roh, but the UNDP was against him, including President Roh Moo-hyun who openly stated that Goh was not fit for the next President. On hearing this, Goh quit it once and for all.
The biggest reason, however, seems to be the policies of the governments of Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and his immediate predecessor Kim Dae-jung, which the people seem to have considered to be overly left-leaning, typified by favoritism for North Korea and decrease in cooperation and friendship with the United States and Japan vis-a-vis China and North Korea.
Policy changes are anticipated on the basis of these differences to correct the former tendencies to the conservative, centrist and pragmatic line.
The new government will seek more reciprocity in dealing with North Korea, including the nuclear issue and the Six-party talks on North Korea, and increased cooperation with the US and Japan. (In fact, Lee MB was born not in Korea but in Osaka, Japan, although he spent much of his boyhood in Pohang on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula above Busan.)
Victory of Lee MB is welcomed more by businessmen, including the small-medium enterprises (SMEs) than other people as he is expected to inject vitality into the business world that has been somewhat reluctant in making new investment for various reasons under the two reformist governments, including the increased power of the union, and also the ceiling beyond which the big businesses were not permitted to invest. Lee MB is expected to substantially lift restrictions making the environment easier for the businesses to increase their investment.
The preceding two government have also been considered to be overly pro-labor and, in fact, the businesses suspected the invisible link between the striking unionists and the power elites wielding a substantial measure of influence in the two reform-minded governments.
Lee MB's victory marks the shifting of the political inclination of the Republic of Korea from left back to the right and middle-of- the-roader line with the greatest vote difference (5.2 million votes) in the history of the Presidential elections in Korea. It also puts an end to the status of the GNP as an opposition political party as it will now become the government party.
The voting rate was 63.1% with a total of 23,717,123 persons voting out of the total number of 37,653,518 eligible voters, which was the lowest in the history of Presidential elections in Korea. It is understood to reflect the loss of interest on the part of the people who regretted the suspected link between Lee MB and the BBK case. However, some observers say that the actual turnout of the voters was much better than had been anticipated.
President-elect Lee MB poses a difference from the all-out conservative candidate, Lee Hoi-chang, who had led the GNP before Lee MB, and is expected to carry out substantial reforms in the GNP to make it less dependent on provincialism and to recruit government ministers not from within the GNP but from a broader range of qualified people from all segments of society. In fact, the GNP has formerly been dependent on the support from provincialism and regionalism with its seat of power centered in Daegu, Busan and the two Gyeongsang provinces.
Lee MB commands a large measure of popularity in Seoul and the so-called Capital Zone which includes densely populated Incheon, Suwon, Yongin, Goyang and other cities of Gyeonggi Province that girds Seoul. It substantially frees Lee MB from having to depend on the regional support of so-called TK (meaning Taegu [properly Daegu] and Gyeongsang provinces, the seat of power of former President Park Geun-hye of the GNP).
On the BBK National Assembly special investigation, there are speculations that President Roh might veto it depending on the result meeting between him and President-elect Lee MB at Cheong Wa Dae so that the matter could be solved 'politically.'
Here are excerpts from the conservative and progressive Korean-language daily media editorials on President-elect Lee Myung-bak carried on the morning of Dec. 20, 2007, immediately after the election day of Dec. 19, 2007:
Chosun Ilbo (conservative):
GNP Presidential Candidate Lee Myung-bak won an overwhelming victory at the 17th-term Presidential election. He was a street cleaner when young working his way into the the middle and high schools and the university, and became the CEO of a big business group at the age of 35. He has now become the President of Korea with the 13th largest economy of the world. He make the GNP recover the name of the GNP after 10 years of defeat losing two conservative Presidential elections.
Now Lee MB must make it the victory of the people. If he should continue to keep the friends and foes of the election time in their own boundaries, he would have to continue to have confrontation and friction between his supporters and rivals. The past five years of such a situation, when the national energy of the country has been exhausted, is enough. Lee MB must sooth the wounds of the people.
There are stumbling blocks in the way against President Lee MB and the foremost one is the National Assembly’s special investigation of the BBK case. Those who attacked him over the issue during the elections lost the race winning only one half or one third of the votes won by Lee MB. The will of the National Assembly to subject Lee MB to the special probe runs counter to the will of nearly one half of the people who cast yes votes to Lee MB.
All the same, Lee MB has to pass the National Assembly general elections in April next year. Surveys indicate that the majority of people want the GNP to have a stable majority for smooth administering of the affair s of the state by Lee MB.
Lee MB is a type of man who can do things on his own and he has such ability. However, he must bear in mind that it was the people who elected him and he should try to do things fully consulting and winning the support of the people.
Hankyoreh Shinmun (progressive):
GNP Presidential Candidate Lee MB won the Presidential election. There were many odds during the election, but he won and we extend our congratulations to him for the victory and our sympathy to the candidates who lost the election.
There ware BBK case and other serious obstacles, but Lee MB won the race. This must be construed to indicate the wishes of the people who wanted change of the government. It is also an expression of dissatisfaction on the part of the people concerning the government.
The government of President Roh Moo-hyun has talked a lot about reforms, but he has failed to carry out reforms that gave satisfaction to the people. It must be borne in mind that the voting rate was the lowest in the history of Presidential elections of Korea.
The first things that President-elect Lee MB should do is to wipe the tears of the hard-pressed people, especially the low-income bracket people and the middle class.
The second important thing he should do is to reduce the rift and rivalry between the competing groups. There were differences between the parties competing in the Presidential race. Lee MB should see the situation that from the leader of a political party but from the position of the leader of a nation.
He should try to listen to all the different opinions of the different people.
The inter-Korean relations which have been developed by the governments of former President Kim Dae-jung and President Roh Moo-hyun should be further developed by the new government. He should try to carry out a leading role in establishing peace on the Korean peninsula.
The Korean people have attained a measure of democracy through blood and sweat. Lee MB should try to further develop it instead of incurring retrogression of the democratic system.
Biographical data and personal background of President- elect. Lee Myung-bak:
Lee was born on Dec. 19, 1941 in Osaka, Japan (according to the personal details in his website, mbplaza) but in other reference materials he is listed to have been born in Yeongil, Pohang, Gyeonsangbuk-do.
He has a brother (elder brother) whose name is Lee Sang-deuk, a GNP member of the National Assembly.
Lee MB stands 175 centimeters tall, weighs 70 kilograms and his blood type is B.
His father’s name is Lee Chung-woo (deceased) and his mother’s Chae Tae-won (deceased). His wife is Kim Yoon-ok born in 1947. Lee MB has four children (Ju-yeon born in 1971, Seung-yeon born in 1973, Su-yeon born in 1975 and Shi-hyung born in 1978).
Lee MB’s penname is Ilsong (or a Lone Pine Tree), his hobbies include tennis, swimming and music. He does not smoke.
His capacity for alcoholic beverage is one bottle of beer and his most preferred food is pork, and the songs he likes singing include Songstress No Sa-yeon’s “Meeting” and Yoo Shim-cho’s “Oh My Love!”
Whom does he respect most in the world? They are Korean patriot Ahn Chang-ho and businessman John Fances Welch Jr. (former chairman of General Electric). What foreign language does he speak? He speaks English well.
How much money does he have and what is the value of his total assets, including real estate? They are valued at 33.5 billion won.
His published works include: “June-3 Student Movement (an academic paper 1994) and an autobiographic essay, “There is No Myth” (1995). He wrote another essay in 2002 entitled “They Say There is No Hope but I See It.”
1954: Finished Yeongheung Elementary School.
1957: Finished Pohang Middle School.
1960: Finished the night class of Dongji Commercial High School.
1965: Graduated from Korea University in Seoul with a major in Business Management.
2004: Received an honorary doctorate from Sogang University in Seoul in Business Management.
1998: Received an honorary doctorate from Korea National Sport University.
1999: Guest research fellow at George Washington University.
2004: Received an honorary doctorate from the National Eurasia University.
2005: Received an honorary doctorate from Mongolian University.
1965: Entered Hyundai Engineering & Construction after passing a public recruitment examination.
1977-1988: President & CEO of Hyundai E&C.
1978-1981: President & CEO of Incheon Steel Works.
1982: Vice president of the Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
1983-1992: Vice president of Korea Management Association.
1985-1986: Chairman and CEO of Halla Engineering & Construction.
1992-1995: Elected member of the 14th-term National Assembly (Democratic Liberal Party).
1992: Honorary ambassador of the State of Arkansas of the United States.
1995: President of Samchung Rotary Club.
1996-1998: Elected member of the 15th-term National Assembly (New Korea Party which was later renamed to Grand National Party).
1997: Elected chairman of the Jongno-gu District Chapter of GNP.
2000: Economic adviser to the Prime Minister of Cambodia.
2000-2002: Honorary chairman of the Korean Association of Disabled Persons Information.
2002: Elected mayor of Seoul City (32nd term and 3rd-term (popularly elected).
2002: Elected chairman of the National Council of City Mayors and Provincial Governors.
1982: Order of Sport Merit, Baegma Medal
1984: Order of Civil Merit, Seogryu Medal.
1985: Industrial Service Merit, Gold Tower.
1986: Order of Sport Merit, Geosang Medal.
1987: Hyunjung National Land Development Award.
1992: Distinguished Service Medal from the Asia Swimmers Federation.
1996: Proud Korean Citizen Award.
1998: The 50 Greatest Persons of the Republic of Korea Award.
1999: The 30 Greatest Entrepreneur of the Republic of Korea Award for Glorifying Korea in the 20th Century.
2005: 2005 World Personality Award.
2005: Friendship Award from the government of Mongolia.
Here are excerpts from the personal background of Lee MB as presented in his autobiography:
When I was an elementary school boy in 1950, the Korean War broke out. I and my family took refuge in the home of the elder brother of my father in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Pohang at the time was a small fishing village.
My father worked at a livestock farm and he had to remain behind at our old home village to continue his work. This is why my mother had to work to earn a living for the family which consisted of six brothers and sisters. My mother sold fruits on a small table at the market place. My youngest brother, Sang-pil, was born in Pohang in the midst of the war. My mother sold fruits at the market and so looking after the young Sang-pil became the job of my elder sister, Kwi-ae.
As I remember, the summer of that year was a very warm and long one.
On one morning in that sultry summer, as I remember it, my sister wanted to comfort Sang-pil on her back as he was crying because we were always short of milk for him.
At that moment, a US Air Force fighter-bomber dropped a bomb on the village and my sister and brother were found covered with blood. I was only an eight-year-old boy and I did not know what to do. There was no hospital to take them to at the time and all we could do to them was to apply smashed mugwort to the wounds. We later learned that the US Forces had learned information that North Korean Army infiltrated the village on the preceding night and the US Air Force bombed the village. My mother could neither eat nor sleep because of the badly wounded Kwi-ae and Sang-pil. In spite of my mother’s enthusiastic prayers to God, my sister and brother finally passed away from the wounds.
When I attended middle school, I used to get scolded by my teacher as he said I gave forth the smell of alcohol. The teacher gave me hard time accusing me of having had alcoholic drinks.
I did not drink, I could not say it to the teacher in order to protect my pride. In fact, I did not drink but ate what is called in Korean Suljigemi (lees or what is left after rice liquor is drained). Poor people at the time ate it because they did not have enough rice for a regular meal.
My father lost his job at the livestock farm and started to sell things at the market. But he had the traits of a Yangban (nobility) and was not good at selling, and naturally our living became difficult. In order to earn a living all the members of the family had to work.
At lunch time at school, all my classmates had their lunch box but I was unable to bring it because we could not afford it. While they ate lunch, I went out of the classroom and drank a lot of water from the water faucet on the play ground.
When I was a third-year-grader at the middle school, I fell ill due to mal-nutrition. However, my mother had no money to take me to hospital and all we could do was to wait for me to become well again without any medication. Maybe it was not a very bad disease and I gradually recovered my health without going to a hospital. If I had had a bad disease and died, it would have been a great shock to my mother because she had already buried two of her children ‘in her heart.’
There were people who lived much better than we. There also were rich people living in houses in our village.
At one time, there was a wedding feast at the home of a rich man named Mr. Kim. My mother told me to go there and help them because there was a lot of work to do on such a festive day. But she gave me a very strick instruction that I must not eat any food there nor bring anything from them.
There were a lot of mouth-watering food and beverage at the party but I had to resist the temptation to eat them because of my mother’s instruction.
Sometimes, they packed some food and gave it to me to take home and share it with my family members. But I could not receive it due to my mother’s warning.
The story got around in the village and I was classified a saucy little boy for that kind of behavior. At first I regretted my mother’s advice but, with the passage of time, I came to realize that it was a good deed to help the people.
Later the villagers came to learn my intention to help the others without expecting a reward and they praised me: “The family of Bak (shortened from Myung-bak) is different from other families because they provide the children with proper discipline and education although they are a poor people.”
In the vicinity of my home lived a beggar family and they had a boy my age in the family. I very much envied the beggar family because they always had enough to eat. I always envied the boy because we had nothing to eat while he had plenty.
Later when I grew up and became a member of the National Assembly, I visited Los Angels in the United States. Unexpectedly, I met the ‘beggar boy’ there. As I came out of the venue after the end of the event, I heard a strange voice calling my name, “Myung-bak!”
There he was, the beggar boy! He had heard that I was coming to LA and came there to see me. We talked all night long, sometimes crying and sometimes laughing.
He told me that in the past he was thinking his family was living better than mine but that later he learned that he was living a beggar’s life while we were living normally.
The hope of my family was the second eldest brother of mine. He was a bright boy and stood out in everything, that is, at school and in every other respect. This is why the entire family tried to take a good care of him. He graduated from a commercial high school because we did not have enough money to send him to a regular high school. In Seoul, he worked his way into the university.
I attended the Pohang Middle School but I had to decide against going to a high school because of the difficult financial situation of the family. While I attended school, I helped my mother who baked and sold inexpensive Gukhwabbang bun on the street.
Boys with a good work record at Pohang Middle School were selected to be sent to the prestigious Kyungbuk High School in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. My school record was excellent at all times and I had the second highest mark in the entire school.