Position: President of South Korea
Incumbent: Lee Myung-bak, 69
Term: February 2008 to February 2013. Ineligible for reappointment as the South Korean Constitution specifies a single five-year presidential term.
— As a member of the conservative Grand National Party, he is seen as a technocrat that strongly supports big businesses and is well known for his rather hawkish policies toward North Korea. He won Korea’s bid to host the G20 Summit in November 2010.
— Lee was elected President of South Korea in 2007 through an overwhelming majority vote, taking office in February 2008 as the country’s first president with a business background. He pledged the revitalization of the economy as one of his key policies, but the global financial crisis in 2008 stalled such efforts. South Korea recovered more quickly than most of its OECD peers. Other key issues, such as the massive “candle-light” protests against U.S. imports of beef in 2008, caused Lee’s popularity ratings to sharply plummet.
— The ruling party’s morale-sapping loss in the 2010 local elections was somewhat overcome by its wins in the July by-elections. Despite the wins, however, many see a diminished capacity for the administration to push for reforms. In August 2010, Lee ordered a cabinet reshuffle in which nominees for eight posts were appointed, including that of prime minister.
— Lee Myung-bak entered the political frame in 1992, serving two terms in parliament. His political career took a boost when he was elected Seoul’s mayor in July 2002. Two of his key accomplishments, the revitalisation of the Cheonggye creek and the restructuring of the transportation system in Seoul, threatened to tarnish his reputation as critics called them inefficient. Positive final reviews on these projects and the successful restructuring of city governance, however, turned him into a leading candidate for the 2007 presidential election.
— After graduating from Korea University in 1965, Lee started his professional career at Hyundai Engineering & Construction . With only twelve years of experience, he became the CEO of the company at the age of 35, earning him the nick-name “white-collar legend.” Lee served as CEO in eight different Hyundai Group subsidiaries, including Hyundai Engineering up until 1992 when he ended his 27-year-long career at Hyundai.
(Editing by Daniel Magnowski)