Wednesday, May 19, 2010

South Korea -- Lee Myung Bak's Presidency Until Today...

I'm thoroughly impressed by the job South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has done. While he got off to a rocky start and began with a couple rather ridiculous campaign promises (e.g. 747 plan or 7% growth rate, improving the canal system in South Korea in the 21st century), he has guided the highly export dependent country through the "Great Recession" and the country after having chalked up positive economic growth last year is set to witness another 5% in real growth this year and slightly less next year.

But, what I find to be the most amazing is how effective he seems to be when steering South Korea through this Cheonan tragedy/fiasco (on the part of North Korea). I mean, just a couple years ago, it seemed to be the case that South Korea under the now defunct Sunshine Policy looked rather impotent. Not too long ago the country continued to give money to North Korea even as it became increasingly clear that North Korea really had no intent to reform the country. North Korea last year formally went from being a revolutionary communist kingdom to a military-first (probably fascist) revolutionary kingdom. Of course, at the same time the income gap between the South and North continued to and continues to widen.

Nonetheless, when the U.S. raised the ante by pretty much bending over backwards to see if North Korea would actually give up its nuclear weapons program, it was far from clear if the South Korean government had the courage, the political fortitude to withstand a very loud opposition those that had previously supported the Sunshine Policy as well as from within the party (Park Chung Hee's daughter) and the foresightedness to do more than just give into short-term North Korean demands for aid.  I mean the U.S. at that point gave North Korea money back it made from counterfeiting U.S. dollars among other ridiculous activities that "state" would actually engage in and even irked Japan to the point of notifying the country a good thirty minutes before taking North Korea off the list of states sponsoring terrorism... Japan, of course, was at that point being held hostage by its domestic outrage over having its citizens kidnapped.

But, it seems clear today that Lee Myung Bak is indeed coming through for his country. He flew into China mere days before Kim Jong Il's train arrived. There are reports (all seemingly quoting Joongang Ilbo) that China refused to give further aid or food to Kim Jong Il's kingdom, a visit from the Chinese foreign minister to Gyeongju of all places (the historical capital of Silla and where I believe the city is now currently so devoid of economic or actually any activity outside of its tourists that it lost its baseball team a few years back), and appears to be building an international consensus where it actually looks as if another round United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of sanctions might go through.

I'm impressed.

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