President Lee Myung-bak Gets Mixed Reviews on His Time in Office
Korea went global during President Lee Myung-bak's term in office.
He spearheaded the drive to host the G-20 Seoul Summit in 2010 and the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit last year, positioning Korea as a world leader capable of helping to bridge the divide between the developed and developing world.
President Lee came to office promising to revamp the economy.. and experts say he did fairly well in this arena, especially in the midst of the global financial crisis.
While other countries saw their credit ratings downgraded, Korea was the only G-20 country to get an upgrade, by Moody's and Fitch last year,.. with Fitch citing Korea's financial stability and strong macroeconomic policy framework.
Lee also gets high marks for the web of free trade agreements that Korea has signed during his tenure, including with the U.S. and the European Union.
Although there were concerns that the Korea-U.S. FTA would devastate some of Korea's least competitive industrial sectors, experts are now predicting that the agreement will boost bilateral trade, create jobs and give Korea greater access to the world's largest economy.
Things didn't really play out well for President Lee when it came to North Korea , and some experts have said his administration's attitude toward the North was too hostile and inflexible, leaving no room for dialogue.
In 2010, the South Korean warship Cheonan was hit by a North Korean torpedo.
Then just eight months later Yeonpyeong Island was shelled by the North.
Last year, North Korea launched a long-range rocket and last week it conducted its third nuclear test, breaching several international agreements.
President Lee also saw his relatives and close associates involved in a string of corruption cases that ultimately cast a shadow over his achievements.
His elder brother Lee Sang-deuk was arrested on bribery charges, and three of the president's relatives, four senior presidential aides and several former cabinet officials were all implicated in corruption scandals.
President Lee apologized for the scandals, but his sincerity was debated when many of his former associates were among the 55 pardons he issued last month.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of the outgoing president is that he failed to raise the standard of living for the average Korean during his term.
The Lee administration fell short of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, mirroring the growing economic polarization between major corporations and small- and medium-sized businesses.
Now, it remains to be seen if the incoming president, Park Geun-hye, will be able to turn things around and avoid the criticisms aimed at President Lee.
Lee Ji-yoon, Arirang News.
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