Respect honest wealthGrand National presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak has promised to donate nearly all of his wealth to the country.
In his first televised campaign speech, Lee said, “A house for my wife and me to live in is more than enough.” He said he will keep that promise whether he wins the election or not.
Lee declared 35.38 billion won ($38.5 million) in personal assets when he registered as a candidate. That means he will end up donating more than 30 billion won. It is no wonder that people are debating why a politician, particularly a presidential candidate, would donate his wealth. As his rivals pointed out, Lee may be trying to silence the backlash that followed after prosecutors cleared him of all BBK-related charges.
But apart from his political motives, Lee’s decision is still meaningful. He is a successful businessman who is donating the assets he has accumulated throughout his life, after overcoming a poverty-stricken childhood.
There have been a series of allegations surrounding Lee, such as his false address registration, his fake employment of his children and the BBK fraud. All of them are linked to his children or his methods of creating wealth.
After becoming the chief executive of a large company while he was in his 30s, Lee served as a lawmaker and mayor of Seoul before becoming the front-running presidential candidate. He followed a path of only looking ahead, so he faced potential troubles in his quest to become a public figure.
While campaigning, Lee must have learned that his thoughtless actions in the past might seriously damage his chances now. Lee must know that his past wrongdoings cannot be forgiven just because he has promised to donate all of his wealth.
We are also concerned that Lee’s promise will set a bad precedent. In a capitalist society, it is not a crime to accumulate a large amount of wealth. Clean wealth, created through legitimate means, should be respected and congratulated.
It is wrong to think that a wealthy person cannot be a pubic servant, or that it is natural for someone to donate all of his wealth to enter officialdom. Lee’s case is more than enough for a one-time exception.
“I will look back on my wrongdoings in the past and more sternly censor myself, starting from small things,” Lee said in his speech. What the people want from Lee is not a large amount of donations, but thoroughgoing statesmanship.