Hyundai man set to work magic on South Korea profile

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Lee Myung-Bak

If the election of Lee Myung-Bak as President of South Korea said anything about the desires of the majority of South Koreans, it is that they want to play a key role on the international stage.

Surrounded by the economic powerhouse Japan, the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea and the ever-booming China, it would come as no surprise if many South Koreans feel a little unnoticed when it comes to world affairs.

Known for his bold, brash policy initiatives and fervent capitalist ideals, President Lee was voted in on the platform that he would make South Korea the seventh largest economy in the world (it is currently 11th).

Lee has been criticised by a variety of Korean and international political and economic experts for such promises, who deem them unrealistic and dangerous, but if anyone can make such promises reality, it could well be the 66-year-old, fresh-faced President.

After all this is the same man who took the tiny, unproductive company Hyundai and turned it into a household name throughout most of the developed world.

The construction side of the Hyundai conglomerate had around 90 workers when Lee started his tenure. When he finished it 27 years later, there were more than 160 000 workers worldwide on projects granted to the company largely through Lee's efforts.

This same man then became a mayor of Seoul, a city of 10 million, where he will be long remembered for another major scheme, the revivification of the Cheongyecheon stream in the centre of the South Korean capital. Many residents of the densely populated Seoul voiced their anger and opposition toward the plan at the time. Some even filed lawsuits against Lee for what they claimed were damages sustained as a result of his decision to resurrect Cheongyechon.

Lee's spirit and determination did not seem to be damaged as a result of all of this as he came through with his major plan, which has given a bit of pizzazz to what is largely a charmless, everyday city.

Things have not been all rosy for Lee though. While his presidential campaign was a massive success, it was somewhat tarnished by allegations of corruption involving the manipulation of stocks in a business allegedly co-founded by Lee earlier this decade.

The business, BBK, was founded in the US and Lee has been videotaped admitting to founding a company of the same name; however he has since staunchly denied having anything to do with such a business. While this could understandably offer some cause for concern, the election results showed that the allegations have had little effect on South Koreans, especially when compared to his other policies and plans.

It may not just be the promises and economic policies outlined by Lee during the South Korean election campaign that appealed to 49 per cent of South Koreans, but also how he will implement them when he takes office on 25 February.

What most South Koreans said as a result of the election was that they no longer want the predictable, robotic lifestyle tag. They want spontaneity, flamboyance and audacity while retaining the passionate Korean values of hard work and righteousness.

South Korea has quietly and steadily grown into a powerhouse over the past decades. After so many years on the backbenches of international affairs the majority of South Koreans now feel it is time to showcase themselves to the world — that was what was conveyed in the South Korean elections.

Playing as great a part as their regional neighbours in world economic and political affairs is a hard task. It will certainly take a great deal of time, commitment and persistence from South Korea for that to ever happen.

However, if there is one person who can pull it off, it is Lee Myung-Bak.

Bruno de Paiva Bruno de Paiva is a Perth writer. He has written for Fork!, and 3rd Degree.



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He was also going to cut a grand canal in middle of the country.

citizen7774 | 08 February 2008  

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