'True Friend of People' Gets a Blue House Post

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'True Friend of People' Gets a Blue House Post

From a poor laborer at Yongsan Market to a high-ranking official in the Kim administration, Lee Tae-bog, 51, who was named a welfare and labor delegate to the Blue House on Monday, knows what it means to work for a living.

Perhaps that's why his supporters consider him a "true friend of workers." His critics say he just got lucky.

Mr. Lee was once imprisoned for eight years for his work as a labor-rights activist.

In 1971 he was expelled from Kookmin University and forced to join the military because he had led a rally opposing mandatory military education at South Korean universities.

After his discharge from the army, he worked as a deliveryman at a market and a factory worker in Pusan.

Mr. Lee founded a small publishing company in 1977 and subsequently translated and compiled more than 20 books related to labor issues, including "The Structure of Korean Labor Problems," "History of Labor in England" and "The History of Labor."

"The History of Labor" was considered a "must read" by college students and workers in the 1980s and early 90s.

He was sentenced to death in 1981 on charges of organizing a labor union and violating the national security law.

However, in 1986 Amnesty International named him a "prisoner of conscience" and held a worldwide campaign calling on the Korean government to free him.

After being pardoned in 1988, he began lecturing at industrial sites throughout the nation, speaking at more than 1,000 engagements during a 10-year period.

He is now the chairman and publisher of the Korea Labor Daily News, which he founded in 1999.

by Shin Sung-sik

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