Go to contents

PM Lee Played Golf Despite Rail Strike

Posted March. 03, 2006 09:10,   


Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan has created controversy by playing golf in Busan on the first day of the railway strike, and on Independence Movement Day when national figures were attending related ceremonies.

Lee went to Busan by plane on the morning of March 1 and played golf with local business leaders at the Asiad Country Club in Gijang-gun, at 9:30 a.m.

Lee did not attend an Independence Movement Day ceremony held at the Sejong Center in Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, Seoul, and he did not request a police escort because he was on an unofficial schedule.

It is reported that his golf outing had been scheduled well in advance at the request of local business leaders. After playing golf, Lee had a meal at 3:00 p.m. in the clubhouse, visited his sick mother-in-law, and left Busan for Seoul at 8:30 p.m.

Lee’s golf trip coincided with the first day of the Korea Railroad Corporation labor strike, and the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, Ministry of Labor, the police, the prosecution, and local governments were in a state of emergency that day.

Critics have called the timing of his golf outing inappropriate.

An official from the prime minister’s explained that “on his way to Busan to visit his mother-in-law, he met and went to play golf with local business leaders.”

The official said, “The president and the prime minister have different events to attend; the president is supposed to attend the March 1 Independence Movement Day event,” adding, “The prime minister came up with strike contingency plans a day before his trip, and he made no mistakes in dealing with the railroad strike.”

Lee caused a stir last year on Arbor Day when he played golf while a large-scale wildfire broke out in Yangyang-gun, Gangwon Province.

When the opposition party demanded his resignation after that incident, he promised to be on best behavior in a National Assembly press conference.

Three months later, however, when a torrential downpour battered southern Korea on July 2, he played golf with Jin Dae-jae, the minister of Information and Communication, and Lee Gi-woo, chief secretary to prime minister, on Jeju Island.

Last December, he gave sets of golf balls, made by a businessman in Busan, inscribed with phoenixes as year-end presents.

It is also being reported that he played golf on two or three occasions in 2003 with Yoon Sang-lim who is suspected of lobbying a wide range of people affiliated with the presidential office, the police, the prosecution, and the courts.

Yong-Hwi Jo Min-Hyuk Park silent@donga.com mhpark@donga.com