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Reviving the economy at top of Lee’s agenda

Victory was a triumph of ‘pragmatism over ideology’

Dec 21,2007
A busy post-election day for President-elect Lee Myung-bak included a policy speech and a thank you to his supporters in Seoul yesterday. [NEWSIS]
Declaring himself a practical leader willing to rise above ideological labels, in his first post-election speech Lee Myung-bak reaffirmed his desire to pay special attention to the nation’s economy, promising to upgrade the quality of life to match Korea’s economic advancement.
“The people have chosen pragmatism over ideology,” Lee said yesterday. The sweeping triumph demonstrates the nation’s hope for the future, Lee said, promising that “the new administration will be very practical and creative.”
Lee won the presidency Wednesday by the largest margin ever. He was chosen by 48.67 percent of the voters, while Chung Dong-young of the liberal United New Democratic Party came in a distant second with 26.14 percent. The gap was more than 5.3 million votes.
“I know well aware that the people’s highest hope is for the revival of the economy,” Lee said yesterday. “A revived economy means that companies are investing. Depending on who the president is, the atmosphere for corporate investment is different. I am hopeful that the atmosphere will change completely so that companies will investment once I become president.”
Lee said one of his primary goals will be to promote economic growth while also improving peoples’ lives. “We should create a new development system in which the benefits of growth will be returned to the middle class,” he said.
Lee also emphasized unity by urging bipartisan cooperation. “The Lee Myung-bak administration will seek to make changes through unity,” he said.
He also said he will pay more attention to strengthening South Korea’s alliance with the United States. Also, unlike past administrations, the Lee government will not be shy about criticizing North Korea when necessary, the president-elect said.
“Going beyond liberalism and conservatism, my diplomacy will focus on pragmatism,” Lee said. “It will be the same for inter-Korean issues. I will try to persuade North Korea that giving up nuclear arms will be helpful in maintaining its regime and offering benefits to its citizens. International cooperation, including the six-party talks, is a must and my administration will also cooperate so that U.S.-North Korea talks will succeed.”
Lee said his presidential transition team will soon be named. “I will form a team with people who are capable of actually working,” Lee said. “Because there is a legislative election in April, I will try to rule out politicians.”
President Roh Moo-hyun telephoned Lee in the morning to congratulate him, Blue House spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said yesterday. During the five-minute conversation, Roh was quoted as saying, “I have prepared for a long time to make a smooth transition, and the preparations will continue from now on.”
Lee promised to cooperate with Roh to wrap up his term, Cheon said.
The two also came to an understanding about the fierce criticism they expressed toward each other until the last moments of the presidential campaign. “Elections are often like that,” Roh said. “Thank you for understanding,” Lee replied, according to the Blue House.
Following his speech, Lee was visited by U.S. Ambassador to Korea Alexander Vershbow. In that meeting, Lee emphasized his goal of repairing U.S.-South Korea relations.
“I am not saying that relations over the past five years were entirely bad, but there was a lack of trust,” Lee said, according to a transcript made available by the GNP after the meeting. “I will try to harmonize the two countries’ national interests.”
The United States will seek ways to upgrade the U.S.-South Korea alliance to suit the global order, Vershbow was quoted as saying by GNP spokeswoman Na Kyung-won.
U.S. President George W. Bush was scheduled to telephone Lee last night to offer his personal congratulations for his victory.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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