Global Korea, Creative Leadership
— An Icon of Global Korea, Creative Leadership —
Before becoming the President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-bak was a prominent businessman from Hyundai, an imaginative politician in the National Assembly of Korea and a successful mayor of Seoul. His illustrious career, along with the story of his rise from humble beginnings, has been a source of inspiration for many young people in Korea.
Born in 1941 to a poor family from Pohang, a port city in southeastern Korea, the young Lee had to earn his way through high school and college. He had to get up early in the morning everyday, collecting trash and sweeping the streets before school hours to pay for his tuition. To this day, he has kept his habit of waking up early and starts his day before 5 o’clock.
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1. Despite abject poverty, Lee Myung-bak was determined to continue his studies by working during the day and studying at night. Here he is shown when he attended Pohang Middle School (left) and night classes at Dongji Commercial High School (right). 2. While serving as the president of the student body of the College of Business Administration at Korea University, Lee Myung-bak showed keen interest in practical social issues. Here, he is standing trial on a charge of leading demonstrations in protest against the normalization talks with Japan in 1964. 3. Posing with friends on the campus at Korea University (second from the right).
After joining Hyundai Construction in 1965 as a fresh recruit, his first achievements included construction of the Pattani-Narathiwat Highway in Thailand and the SeoulBusan Highway in Korea, both of which later became the backbone of economic development. Lee also led the building of the Arabian Repair Shipyard and the Jubail Industrial Port (both in Iraq) as well as Malaysia’s Penang Bridge, the second longest in the world at that time. He also led Hyundai’s drive to modernize Korea’s housing style by planning and building modern apartment complexes. In recognition, Lee became CEO of Hyundai in just 12 years.
1. Lee Myung-bak joined Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company in 1965. Serving as a director in his 20s, president in his 30s and chairman in his 40s, he established the company as one of the leading global businesses. Here, he is standing with Chung Ju-yung, the late chairman of the Hyundai Group, at a team-building workshop for new employees of Hyundai Engineering and Construction in 1981. 2. At a construction site of Hyundai Engineering and Construction.
As CEO of Hyundai Construction, Lee oversaw the process of its automobile business, heavy industry and shipbuilding units developing into Hyundai Motors, Hyundai Heavy Industry and Hyundai Shipbuilding, respectively. Lee held CEO positions at ten different Hyundai affiliates, including Hyundai Engineering and Incheon Steel before leaving Hyundai in 1992.
1. Lee Myung-bak was always on the scene where work was taking place and thinking about how to do the job better. Here he is inspecting a construction site. 2. Lee Myung-bak standing with the former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia at the construction site of the Penang Bridge.
After leaving Hyundai, he was elected as a member of the National Assembly for two consecutive terms before becoming Mayor of Seoul in 2002. Restoration of Cheonggyecheon, one of his most notable achievements while serving as mayor, brought back a 6.5 km stream that had remained covered with concrete for 40 years. The restored stream revived the ecosystem and enlivened the city center.
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1. For 40 years, Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul was buried under a cover of concrete pavement and the area quickly dilapidated. Upon his inauguration as mayor of Seoul in 2002, Lee Myung-bak launched a massive environmental project to restore the stream. Mayor Lee inspecting the reconstruction site. 2. A night scene of the new Cheonggyecheon. 3. Lee Myung-bak against the backdrop of a waterfall in the new Cheonggyecheon, which was restored in 2006.
More than 30 million people visit Cheonggyecheon yearly. It was an audacious task as Lee had to take out an eight-lane paved road that covered Cheonggyecheon and raze a 5.8 kmlong overpass, which had a daily capacity of over 270,000 vehicles. Moreover, the project faced harsh opposition from interest groups of all kinds who had been making their living on and around the paved area.
Lee successfully set out to forge a consensus with 220,000 business owners, residents, and street vendors by conducting more than 4,000 dialogue sessions, leaving a remarkable model for conflict resolution in sustainable urban development. This effort was recognized by the 2005 Venice Biennale 9th International Architecture Exhibition, which gave the project The Best Public Administration Award. Also, TIME magazine named Lee Myung-bak one of their Heroes of the Environment 2007. Under Lee’s watch, the city of Seoul excelled in e-governing and was ranked first in the world consecutively in 2003 and 2005 in the UN Global e-Government Survey which is released biennially. He helped export the system and know-how to Moscow, Hanoi, and Ulaanbaatar.
1. Mayor Lee in front of Seoul City Hall draped with national flags to celebrate Korea’s 60th Liberation Day. 2. Mixing with college students at Seoul’s Sangam World Cup Stadium.
In 2007, Lee won the nomination as the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party. He promised to usher in an era of pragmatism. As outlined in his inaugural speech, his vision of a Great Korea is “a nation where the government serves its people with devotion, a nation where the economy is robust and the weak and the marginalized are taken care of… a nation where the best and brightest are fostered and welcomed by the rest of the world and which attracts the world’s best and brightest to come and work.”
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1-2. The President likes to meet with ordinary citizens where they work. He recently visited a traditional market. 3. Acting as a referee at a Children’s Day soccer match.
He also promised that Korea would pursue global diplomacy commensurate with its stature so as to contribute to peace and stability around the world. The Korean people responded.
On December 19, 2007, he won the 17th presidential election and was sworn in on February 25, 2008. In the presidential election, Lee won by a wide margin in all categories – region, age group and income level – and the difference in the number of votes with the runner-up was 5.32 million, representing 22.5 percent of the total ballots cast. Coincidentally, December 19 happens to be his birthday as well as his wedding anniversary.
Lee Myung bak
Born on December 19, 1941. Married to Kim Yoon-ok. They have one son and three daughters.
Professional 2007, Dec. Elected President of the Republic of Korea in the 17th presidential election 2002, June Mayor of Seoul 2001 Commissioner, Subcommittee on Future Competitiveness, National Reform Committee, Grand National Party 1992, Sept. Assemblyman in the 14th & 15th National Assemblies 1977-92 CEO of ten different affiliated companies of the Hyundai Group (including Hyundai Construction, Hyundai Engineering and Incheon Steel) Education 1999 1998
Chairman of North East Asia Economic Committee Honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Bhutan to Korea Social Activities Advisor to the Overseas Korean Traders Association (OKTA) President of Asia-Pacific Environmental Non-Governmental Organization in Korea Founder & Chairman of the East Asia Foundation Chairman of the World Federation of Korean Associations of Commerce Sports Activities Bureau Member of FINA (La Fédération Internationale de Natation) Executive Member of the Korean Olympic Commitee Awards & Decorations Personality of the Year 2005 awarded by fDi Magazine, affiliate of the Financial Times Selected as one of the 30 Business Leaders in Korea in the 20th Century by Maeil Economic Daily & the Federation of Korean Industries Publications My Mother Unwavering Promise Cheonggyecheon Flows to the Future There Is No Such Thing as a Myth
2001~ 2000-2 1994~ 1993
Visiting Scholar, George Washington University, Washington D.C., USA Honorary Doctor of Physical Science, Korea National University of Physical Education, Seoul, Korea B.A. in Business Administration, Korea University, Seoul, Korea
Other Professional Activities Economic Activities 1989 Deputy Chairman of Korea-USSR Economic Association 1983 Vice President of Korea Management Association 1982-92 Deputy Chairman of Korea Chamber of Commerce Diplomatic Activities Economic Advisor to Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia Honorary Ambassador of Arkansas State, USA
2007 2007 2005 1995