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New South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Vows to Boost Prosperity in Both Koreas

New South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Vows to Boost Prosperity in Both Koreas

New South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office with a promise to boost prosperity not only in his own country but in North Korea as well _ provided the communist state abandons its nuclear weapons.
"Economic revival is our most urgent task," Lee said in his inaugural speech Monday after taking the oath of office as South Korea's first conservative president in a decade.
South Koreans gave the former high-profile construction executive a landslide victory in December's election on his pledge to revitalize the economy and take a less conciliatory approach to nuclear-armed North Korea.
"We must move from the age of ideology into the age of pragmatism," Lee told some 60,000 people who gathered for his inauguration, taking a swipe at the past 10 years of liberal rule during which he said "we found ourselves faltering and confused."
Lee, a former construction CEO nicknamed "The Bulldozer" for his can-do image, took the oath of office at the National Assembly in the presence of cheering onlookers, foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a choir singing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."
Lee, 66, also called for a stronger alliance with top ally Washington and implored North Korea to forgo its nuclear ambitions and open up to the outside world, promising a better future for the impoverished nation.
Rice, speaking to reporters separately, hailed Washington's ties with Seoul.
"It is a relationship that has only deepened over the years because we share something very important," she said. "As much as we share strategic interests we certainly share common values."
Lee said he would launch massive investment and aid projects in the North to increase its per capita income to $3,000 (euro2,025) within a decade "once North Korea abandons its nuclear program and chooses the path to openness."
Lee is the 10th man to serve as South Korea's president and the first to come from a business background.
He wooed voters by promising to reach annual economic growth of 7 percent, double the country's per capita income to $40,000 (euro26,996) over a decade and make South Korea one of the world's top seven economies.
South Korea's economy grew 4.9 percent last year and 5 percent the year before, but Lee says it has underperformed.
The country's benchmark stock market rose 1.3 percent Monday on investor expectations of stronger economic growth under Lee.
"I have high expectations that Lee Myung-bak will revive our economy," Cho Han-keum, who runs a shelter for elderly homeless people, said at the inauguration site.
One analyst was more cautionary.
"One of the sternest challenges Mr. Lee will face is the weight of expectations he has manufactured," said Daniel Melser, senior economist at Moody's Economy.com. "Global economic conditions have soured ever since Lee made this promise late last year."
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Associated Press writers Hyung-Jin Kim, Kelly Olsen and Matthew Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-18 02:05 GMT+08:00