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Lee Says He`s Exceptionally Pro-Business

Posted January. 12, 2008 03:01,   


President-elect Lee Myung-bak said Friday that he expects changes in the public sector, and that officials will also devote themselves to taking care of businesspeople once his administration takes office.

“Public servants must not be preoccupied with the thought of losing their jobs,” he told a meeting of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry with some 400 executives. Lee talked chiefly about the economy and the restructuring of state agencies.

On the resistance of certain ministries to restructuring, he said, “For us to achieve development, we have to gradually make sacrifices and concessions when the times change.”

“On the reduction of ministries, certain ministries have mobilized business or the media to oppose it. However, they don’t have to that since (the change) is for the better. It aims to integrate functions of ministries scattered all over the place so that businesspeople can handle the work in one place.”

Lee said restructuring is also important to create a business-friendly environment.

“You’ll get worn out if you have to visit the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Commerce, Industry and Energy Ministry and the Information and Communication Ministry for information technology matters,” he said.

“Korean businesspeople might put up with the grueling (procedures), but foreigners will not be able to endure it. They’ll just stop coming (to Korea).

The president-elect also expressed deep affection for the business chamber, as he served as vice president between 1982 and 1992.

“Many say I am too business-friendly,” Lee said. “That’s right, I am pro-business. I don’t deny it because the nation can prosper only when businesses thrive.”

He also asked entrepreneurs to have a “can do” attitude even when economic conditions are bad.

“I hardly used to notice the sunrise at the beginning of the year,” Lee said. “But the sun that rose between apartment buildings on January 1 this year appeared exceptionally big. I doubt that it was actually any bigger, but things look bigger when you have hope.”

“I’m really worried about this year’s economy because of soaring international oil prices, the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and other factors. However, I believe we can achieve another one or two percent growth if we change conditions.”

Lee also ruled out achieving growth by force or through policies with potential side effects. He recalled the crisis when credit cards were issued without proper credit checks, in line with the government’s efforts to stimulate the economy after the Asian financial crisis.

The president-elect also attracted laughter with insightful comments.

“The number of Koreans going to Japan to play golf has exceeded the number of Japanese coming to Korea,” he said. “Do you expect me to conduct tax audits to stop them (from leaving the country)?

“There was a barbaric time when people played golf under somebody else’s name and changed to somebody else’s car because license plate numbers were checked at golf clubs.”

Lee added, “When I met with foreign presidents of banks, I realized that those who had worked (in Korea) for a long time talked prudently, but a president who had been here for a couple of months talked recklessly without fear. I think he was less Koreanized.”

The meeting was scheduled for one hour but lasted another 30 minutes, as the president-elect replied to each suggestion from the executives.

“I have no power until February 25 (the date of his inauguration),” Lee said jokingly. “Even if you make suggestions, all I can give you today are conditional answers.”

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