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Lee’s brother and ex-pollster top inner circle

Group of 70 includes scholars, lawmakers and staff members

Dec 21,2007
When Lee Myung-bak needs advice, he turns first to his brother and a former pollster, according to a joint analysis with the Korea Legislative Studies Institute.
Lee’s brother, Lee Sang-deuk, a Grand National Party lawmaker, and Choi See-joong, a former head of Gallup Korea who has known Lee for over 30 years and is considered to be his mentor, head the inner circle of the country’s next president, according to the analysis.
The next tier includes Grand National lawmakers Lee Jae-oh and Chung Doo-un, as well as Kang Jae-sup, head of the Grand National Party.
The JoongAng Ilbo and the Korea Legislative Studies Institute recently took a close look at Lee’s inner circle, which includes both members of academia and fellow lawmakers.
Lee’s election camp recommended 70 names. They also released a list of all of Lee’s policy and strategy meetings, along with the names of who attended them.
From that information, the top 22 in the inner circle were chosen.
The next factor was how long each of the people have known Lee Myung-bak.
Finally, media reports compiled by the Korea Press Foundation also played a role.
Lee’s five closest advisers, named above, were mentioned in media reports about Lee an average of 75 times during the past year, compared to an average of 20.7 times for the 70 other people on the list.
Except for Kang, the other four people have known Lee for at least five years.
The next tier consists mostly of GNP lawmakers who worked for Lee during the presidential campaign.
Lawmaker Park Hee-tae, a former justice minister; lawmaker Kim Deog-ryong; Lee Bang-ho, who headed Lee’s election campaign and is considered a rising star; and party spokesman Park Hyeong-joon are some of the members of this group, according to the analysis.
From the world of academia, Yu Woo-ik, a geology professor at Seoul National University, is one of Lee’s top policy planners.
Park Young-jun, who was a policy planning aide to Lee when he was mayor of Seoul, and Kang Seung-kyoo, who was in charge of media events during Lee’s time as mayor, are some of the other members of this second tier, which consists of 26 people.
The third group includes GNP lawmaker Hong Jun-pyo and Korea University Professor Nam Sung-wook, a former intelligence official who specializes in North Korean affairs. A total of 39 people fall into this group.
Overall, the group has 19 current lawmakers, 16 scholars from universities and think tanks, 23 people from Lee’s personal staff and 12 people who act as advisers.
About 80 percent of the people are from Gyeongsang Province, one of the main bases of support for Lee’s conservative party, and the Seoul metropolitan area.
Only 7.4 percent come from the Jeolla provinces. A total of 37 percent of the group graduated from Seoul National University, while 21 percent came out of Korea University, Lee’s alma mater.
Unlike the Roh administration, in which virtually all of the key aides had at one time participated in the country’s student-led democracy movements, almost none of the members of Lee’s group did so.
In addition, unlike other presidential candidates who used party members and politicians to fill half of their top spots, only 24.3 percent of Lee Myung-bak’s group are politicians.
The rest come from various fields, including the media, legal circles, public sectors and academia, which has the biggest representation of people, with 18.
The average age of the group was 52, with 34 percent in their 40s and 50s.
A total of 39 persons have known Lee for five years or more.
Nevertheless, all of the lawmakers included in the second tier have known Lee for less than a year.
This means he is not necessarily using long-term relationships to choose his inner circle, but rather picking his people based on their skills and abilities.


By Special Reporting Team JoongAng Ilbo [africanu@joongang.co.kr]



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