President Lee’s broken dreams

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President Lee’s broken dreams

In a nationally televised address to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Liberation Day, President Lee Myung-bak yesterday made a meaningful comment on what he has achieved in his past four and half years in office. “I declared in my inaugural speech four years ago that 2008 would be the first year for Korea’s leap toward advancement. Today, I am convinced that Korea proudly joins the ranks of developed countries.”

In a speech that sounded like a preliminary evaluation of his performance as president, Lee seems to be announcing he has kept his promise. No doubt he has worked hard, and he will do so until his five-year term expires next February. In an address full of rosy statistics, Lee elaborated on his accomplishments: Korea’s most successful conquest of the 2008 global financial crisis; a remarkable recovery of jobs to the pre-2008 level; twice upgrading the sovereign credit rating when other countries’ plummeted; proudly hosting the Group of 20 Summit for the first time in Asia and the Nuclear Security Summit; the third largest number of volunteer workers dispatched overseas, following America and Japan; and the remarkable fifth place Team Korea clinched in the London Olympics.

Of course, those are something to be proud of. Yet the status of a developed nation cannot be attained by numerical measure as it must meet the global standards in broader areas, including politics, culture and morality.

One of the most common elements of major developed countries is transparency of power - and modesty. In the 21st century, power is not a prize for a blessed few but a means for nurturing the community. Can you find a corruption scandal in which a president’s brother, relatives, friends and aides all go to prison? Is there any developed country where an entire campaign staff is busy snatching trophies after victory, not to mention egregious revolving-door appointments in return for their help before the election?

Despite Lee’s positive assessment, a number of people don’t buy it. Regardless of his praise of seemingly robust figures, economic polarization is one of the worst in the world. Citing his own success story in his inaugural address, Lee highlighted Korea as the land of hope where anyone can make his or her dream come true. Yet many citizens refuse to believe it. President Lee’s call for advancement of Korea may be taken over by the next president. And it all depends on voters’ decision in the December election.
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