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NHK: Koreans Choose Candidate with Executive Ability

Posted December. 20, 2007 15:23,   


Major foreign press outlets reported Korea’s presidential election held on Wednesday as breaking news under the headline “Landslide Victory for Lee Myung-bak” as soon as they received exit poll results.

Major broadcasters such as CNN and NHK in Japan placed a great deal of weight on the news after the results of the exit poll were announced at around 6 p.m. While accepting Lee’s victory as an accomplished fact, NHK aired the scenes from the Grand National Party’s office and on the street live from Korea as their main news.

Most foreign press outlets pointed to the desire for an economic revival for Lee’s success. They also reported that his victory holds significance because it is a win for a conservative party. At the same time, Lee was dubbed as the first CEO-turned president in Korea.

AFP said, “Lee was able to garner unprecedented support because many Koreans are disappointed at the policies of current administration, which resulted in a high youth unemployment rate, a larger income gap and skyrocketing real estate prices.” The AP reported, “Many voters hope that the former CEO of the Hyundai Group will revive the economy.”

The Washington Post reported that Lee’s career as a CEO of a large corporation as well as Seoul Mayor was the strongest asset that led him to his victory. In other words, the result of Wednesday’s election showed that Koreans placed higher emphasis on a candidate’s ability to revive the sagging economy rather than on their morality.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun also analyzed that Koreans’ thirst for a strong economy has translated into high expectations of Lee.

The French daily Le Figaro said, “Lee’s pledge to revive the economy has worked on Korean voters who are stuck between prosperous Japan and rising China.”

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, “As a former CEO and Seoul Mayor, Lee has the reputation of making things possible.”

Some foreign press outlets described Lee’s “747” pledge in detail, which mainly contains his plans to achieve a 7 percent annual economic growth rate, to break the $40,000 per capita income mark within ten years, and to become the world’s seventh largest economic powerhouse.

Some pointed out that Lee’s victory was possible because voters were disappointed at the “leftist” governments that took office for the past decade. One of them was the German weekly Speigel which said in its online edition that Lee took advantage of the failure of the current government.

Le Figaro, referring to the words of a politics expert, said, “Koreans seem to be disappointed at elite politicians after experiencing ten years of leftist presidents in office.”

NHK reported, “Back in 2002, Koreans elected President Roh in the expectation that he would resolve income disparities. However, they worsened. It seems that Koreans are now leaving the task to Lee, who is well known as a person of action and determination.”

For all these reasons, foreign press outlets reported that Lee was able to succeed despite fraud allegations that dogged him during the campaign period.

The AP said, “With the hope that the former CEO will revitalize the economy, voters have turned a blind eye to all the allegations.” The BBC said, “It seems that Korean voters have willingly placed ethical issues behind all others.”

The foreign press also showed a great interest in how Lee’s victory may affect relations between the U.S. and North Korea.

The AFP reported, “Lee fiercely opposed President Roh’s blind support to North Korea. He has made it clear that South Korea will provide support only in response to North’s commitment to denuclearization.” The AP said, “Lee favors hard-line measures toward the North and he will seek a closer relationship with the U.S.”

The German financial daily newspaper Handelsblat forecasted, “After taking office, Lee will base his North Korean policies on a clear principle of reciprocity.” The French daily Le Monde regarded Lee’s victory as the end of South Korea’s reconciliatory approach to the North, which lasted for the past decade.