President-elect Lee Myung-bak writes, “I’ll do my best for the welfare of the people,” in a visitors’ book after paying homage at the National Cemetery in Seoul, Thursday. The visit was Lee’s first official event after he was elected president in Wednesday’s election. / Korea Times Photo by Won Yu-hun
By Kim Yon-se
President-elect Lee Myung-bak stressed pragmatism in diplomacy, inter-Korean relations and economic policy, Thursday, saying he wants to build a ``global Korea.”
In his first press conference in Seoul following his victory Wednesday, Lee said that North Korea will be able to receive economic aid and diplomatic recognition from the outside world by giving up its nuclear ambitions as early as possible.
``For North Korea, giving up its nuclear weapons is to ensure its development,'' he said. ``Through the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, South and North Korea can open a new era of cooperation.''
He said constructive criticism will help make North Korean society healthy. ``I believe North Korea should now change to reach a level of understanding, and that the North has actually progressed.''
In a departure from the current Roh Moo-hyun administration, Lee made it clear that his administration would not refrain from criticizing North Korea on its human rights abuses and would not provide aid unconditionally.
Lee also said he will put pressure on North Korea to see fast denuclearization and an improvement of its human rights situation.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the South Korean military rulers reacted angrily to foreign pressure on improving human rights conditions but without such international pressure, ``we could not have made progress in improving the human rights of South Koreans. In the same vein, North Korea needs to improve its human rights,'' he said.
He promised that the South would play an active role in the six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue, saying, ``International engagement should be strengthened through the six-way talks.''
South Korea abstained last month when a United Nations committee voted on a resolution pressing North Korea to improve its human rights.
The former Seoul mayor reiterated his campaign pledges of making bold deregulation for businesses.
``During my tenure, the business environment will be changed entirely to promote active investments,'' Lee told a news conference at the Korea Press Center in Seoul.
Lee, 66, said that the business environment could be different according to who leads the country, adding, ``Business leaders hesitated making active investments amid anti-market and anti-conglomerate sentiment.''
Lee promised to outline economic policies of his administration after meeting business leaders as soon as his transition committee is formed next week.
``I will also set up a unit in the committee to seek ways of attracting more foreign investment,'' he added.
Lee said he will ease regulations on big industrial groups, including ownership rules of financial institutions, and lowering corporate tax from 25 percent to 20 percent.
Parties such as the liberal United New Democratic Party (UNDP) and the progressive Democratic Labor Party (DLP) have insisted that Lee's deregulation measures benefit only family-owned conglomerates.
During the presidential race, Lee and the UNDP's Chung Dong-young collided head-on over regulations that limit business groups from owning financial services companies.
Lee's administration is expected to cut corporate tax, abolish restrictions on cross-affiliate investment among large business groups and strengthen crackdowns on illegal strikes.
His pro-business policies are in line with his main election pledge ― Korea 747 Vision ― under which he seeks to expand annual growth by 7 percent, double the per capita income to $40,000 and make the country the world's seventh-largest economy within a decade.