President Lee Myung-bak yesterday stressed corporate ethics, blaming the global financial crisis on greed and irresponsibility of global financial institutions and companies.
Speaking to a national prayer session of Protestants at a Seoul hotel, he said he believes the unprecedented global scale of the crisis is not a problem of simple economic cycles or problems.
Overcoming the crisis should start from recovering sound corporate ethics, he said.
The president also blamed excessive investment in derivatives, the bursting of bubbles, and the consequent economic depression.
Experts said the president sent an indirect message to the domestic business community in his speech. In the same vein, Strategy and Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun urged domestic automakers to make the same efforts as the governments.
A source at a domestic private think tank said the government is stressing corporate responsibility as the Korean economy in the second half of this year will depend on private investment and consumption.
Others interpreted the presidents message as a call for a corporate noblesse oblige, or the notion that power and prestige come with responsibilities, after he urged better ethical behavior by public officials.
On his past as a student with little economic means, President Lee reiterated his pledge to implement policies for low-income people.
Before I had exchanges with world leaders, I used to live from hand to mouth as well as having an affluent life, he said. I think I became a president to answer my calling to alleviate the pain of the underprivileged, as if their problems were mine.
President Lee also said, I will humbly seek wisdom and sagacity to carry out this calling, and I will do my job in a righteous, fair and honest manner and go ahead confidently while serving the peoples will.
On North Korea, President Lee said his administration is doing its best to induce Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program and enter the international arena of reconciliation and cooperation.
He said Seoul is seeking concerted international efforts to implement the U.N. Security Council resolution against Pyongyangs nuclear provocations.
North Korea should realize that South Korea is the only country in the world that loves the North with a sincere heart, he said.
The president also visited a childcare center in southern Seoul, working as a substitute teacher and listening to mothers grievances. He showed interest in improving the conditions for child rearing, promising to increase financial support for low-income parents.
His deputy spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said the presidents visit was part of his efforts to get parenting experience firsthand and figure out systematic support for parents.