Lee Myung Bak

Lee Myung Bak lē myŭng bäk [key], 1941–, South Korean business executive and politician, president of South Korea (2008–13), b. Osaka, Japan. He began his business career with Hyundai Construction in 1965, becoming the chief executive officer of the company in 1977. By the time he left the Hyundai Group in 1992 he had been CEO of eight Hyundai businesses and earned the nickname “The Bulldozer” for the drive with which he managed difficult projects. In 1992 he entered politics and was elected to the National Assembly, serving until 1998, when he resigned in the wake of charges of excessive campaign spending. Active in the conservative Grand National party, he founded electronic financial services companies after 1999 and later was mayor of Seoul (2002–6). A candidate for South Korean president in 2007, he handily defeated his opponents, becoming the first conservative candidate to win in a decade. His victory, however, was marred by an investigation into accusations of fraud associated with an investment firm he founded, but he was subsequently cleared. Lee adopted a harder line with North Korea than his immediate predecessors, and his presidency was marked by difficult relations with the North. In 2018 he was convicted of having received bribes while president and other charges.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Korean History: Biographies