|Birth Day:||December 19, 1941|
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He was a successful CEO with the Hyundai Group, spending 27 years with the company and rising the latter to head the Engineering and Construction department.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 US$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 1999, Lee was a visiting scholar at the George Washington University, in Washington, DC.
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.
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)."
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.
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 finished with a nearly 2-to-1 margin over his nearest challenger, Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party. To date, it is the largest margin of victory since the resumption of direct presidential elections in 1987. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
On 7 September 2011, the Blue House officially scrapped plans for a rich tax deduction, marking the foundational end of Mbnomics.
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).
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."
Under the Lee Administration, South Korea successfully concluded a free trade agreement with the European Union on 1 July 2011.
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. In March 2010, Lee's presidency ended the Sunshine Policy, originally planned by Kim Dae-jung to improve relations with the North.
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."
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.
In a speech on 13 August 2012, Lee said that his actions were motivated by a desire to force Japan to settle the comfort women issue.
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".
In his Liberation Day speech on 15 August 2012, Lee demanded that Japan take "responsible measures" for the comfort women, blaming Japan for violating women's human rights.
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 was detained on 22 March 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).
On 5 October 2018, Lee was convicted 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. The corruption case badly tainted his status as the country's first leader with a business background who once symbolized the country's economic rise. Lee's conviction came six months after his successor and fellow conservative Park Geun-hye was convicted in a separate corruption scandal that triggered the country's biggest political turmoil in decades. She is serving 25 years in prison. The back-to-back scandals badly wounded conservatives in South Korea and deepened a national divide. On Friday, the Seoul Central District Court convicted Lee of embezzling 24.6 billion won ($21.7 million) from a company he owned; taking bribes from Samsung, one of his spy chiefs and a former lawmaker; causing a loss to state coffer; and committing other crimes. The court fined Lee 13 billion won ($11.5 million). It said Lee committed those crimes before and during his presidency, from 2008-13.
On 29 October 2020, the Supreme Court upheld a 17-year sentence for Lee for bribery and embezzlement, the 13 billion won ($11.4 million) fine and the additional forfeiture of 5.78 billion won ($5 million).
Currently, Lee Myung-Bak is 79 years, 9 months and 1 days old. Lee Myung-Bak will celebrate 80th birthday on a Sunday 19th of December 2021.
Find out about Lee Myung-Bak birthday activities in timeline view here.