New PM-designate ‘self-made’ man

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New PM-designate ‘self-made’ man

Blue House officials yesterday praised prime minister-designate Kim Tae-ho as a skilled politician who pulled himself up by the bootstraps and rose to success despite humble beginnings, saying he is a perfect representation of President Lee Myung-bak’s political focus.

“The newly formed cabinet can be described as a young cabinet focused on communication and cohesion,” Hong Sang-pyo, senior public affairs secretary for the president, said yesterday. “Appointing a young former governor who is a self-made man from a rural farming family” highlights the characteristic Lee values.

In an interview with the media yesterday, Kim pledged to communicate with the public and said he hopes to foster a renewed sense of optimism about the direction of the country.

“The key strategies of the Lee administration revolve around being working-class friendly, employing centrist policies and spurring projects that will help the economy recover,” Kim said. “To succeed, communication and (social) harmony are key, and I will work to improve those areas.”

Kim also said he wants to be an inspiration to young Koreans.

“Right now, those in their 20s and 30s are in despair,” Kim said. “I was born as a son of a cattle farmer, but I served as a provincial legislator and a county head and was elected as a governor twice. I want to boost the confidence of the public that Korea is a land of opportunity and nothing is impossible.”

Kim, who grew up on a farm in the rural village of Geochang, South Gyeongsang, has said his dream was to become a farmer after completing middle school. His father, however, encouraged Kim to study. Kim heeded that advice, graduated from a vocational high school in 1980 and then going on to study agricultural education at Seoul National University, where he completing his doctoral degree in 1992.

Working as a lecturer at the university, he foresaw a life of teaching. But he reached a turning point after working for Lee Kang-too’s legislative election campaign in 1992.

Lee won the election, but Kim wasn’t able to resume his teaching job. He then joined the Grand National Party’s think tank, the Youido Institute, and began his political career in 1998 by winning a local election to become a provincial council legislator in South Gyeongsang.

He won local elections in 2002 to become the county head of his hometown, Geochang. In 2004, Kim ran for South Gyeongsang governor on the GNP ticket and won the post at the age of 42. Two years later, he was reelected as governor.

Known for his strong leadership skills and a youthful image, Kim rose to prominence ahead of the 2007 presidential election, when political observers started talking about him as a potential candidate himself one day. Kim declared earlier this year his intention to stay out of the June election for governor of South Gyeongsang.

Speculation spread quickly that Kim was offered a spot in the current administration and that he would be groomed as a presidential candidate.

Asked about the possibility, Kim said yesterday that it’s all up to the public, noting that presidential candidates must earn the trust of the people first.


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