[elect]President-Elect Vows Creative Diplomacy
By Kim Yon-se
President-elect Lee Myung-bak has promised that Korean diplomacy will undergo ``creative reconstruction'' under his administration.
He also promised that he will present a blueprint for North Korea's economic development and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Lee has proposed the so-called ``MB doctrine'' (using the initials of his name) for foreign policy that comprises seven projects to be undertaken by his administration, encompassing North Korea, unification, security and diplomacy.
The MB doctrine deals largely with denuclearizing the North, opening it up for reform, and bringing the per capita gross domestic income of North Koreans to $3,000 per year within 10 years.
He stated that when Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program and opens its doors to the outside world, South Korea ― with help from the international community ― will provide active assistance, supported by its growing economic prowess.
Lee has campaigned on the promise that the per capita income of South Koreans will reach $30,000 within five years and $40,000 within 10 under his administration.
Restoring Relations With US
Lee is a critic of the Roh administration's policy toward the United States.
He has repeatedly said: ``The incumbent government has tried to change the pillar of the Korea-U.S. alliance without any blueprint and thereby weakened relations between the two allies.''
``Restoring the Korea-U.S. alliance based on the established friendship'' is also among the seven goals of the MB doctrine.
Lee, in the meantime, agrees in principle with the transfer of wartime military control from the U.S. to South Korea, but said the timeline must be renegotiated.
Korea is set to take over wartime operational control of the military by 2012. Lee said 2012 is not appropriate and that the new government must renegotiate the date.
The current government is conducting large-scale military reform aimed at fortifying the nation's self reliant defense capabilities and reducing dependence on U.S. troops.
It aims to transform the country's troop based military into a high tech equipment based one by 2020.
Other points in the MB doctrine include the expansion of diplomacy in Asia, fortification of Korea's contribution to the international community, augmentation of energy diplomacy, and promotion of ``Korean culture'' based on the mutual opening of markets.
He says, ``Korean diplomacy must be a practical one based on national interest, not ideology, and a diplomacy that is supported by the people and not by political strategy.''
Lee vowed to establish a ``smaller and efficient government'' by slimming down central administrative bodies and restricting the hiring of civil servants.
He said his bureaucratic reforms would lower government spending by around 10 percent. ``The number of public officials will be frozen at the current level and government agencies will be absorbed into larger ones.''
According to his pledges, Lee will whittle down ministries and smaller central government branches, currently totaling 56, and will reorganize 416 government-affiliated committees. In addition, a number of organizations will be merged or disbanded.
The incumbent administration has been under criticism for increasing its size excessively.
The number of public servants increased by 65,000 since President Roh Moo-hyun took office in February 2003, according to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.
It marked the second largest increase after the Roh Tae-woo government, who took office in 1988, and added more than 176,000 government jobs.
Under the incumbent Roh Moo-hyun government, a total of 28 new public institutions were established and the wages of public officials also increasing by up to 50 percent.
Lee also pledged to tighten the public officials' ethics code by stiffening punishments and penalties.
``Corrupt officials will be obliged to pay 50 times the amount of bribes they take,'' Lee said.
He also vowed to root out tax evasion by more than doubling penalty rates. Additional back taxes will increase from the current 40 percent of unpaid taxes to 100 percent, he said.
Lee added that he would push for the privatization of state-run companies and delegate government projects to the private sector.
More Private Schools
Lee pledged to establish about 100 independent private schools. The incumbent government disallowed any new such schools on the grounds that it would promote excessive competition among students and undercut the cause of egalitarian education.
For realization of the goal, he vowed to ease government regulations on schools and reduce soaring private tuition costs.
The President-elect also proposed building 10 more elite schools, 150 public boarding schools, and 40 specialty schools focusing on animation, cooking and other specialist sectors.
Specialist and independent private schools will be guaranteed freedom to plan their curriculum. Lee also plans to expand national scholarship programs for these new schools.
``I will break the vicious cycle of hereditary poverty by reducing private tuition fees, which cost the nation up to 30 trillion won per year,'' he said.
As a noteworthy point, Lee is putting forward a new English education plan, proposing to train at least 3,000 new English teachers qualified to give lessons speaking only in English.
Lee also promised to reduce the burden of college entrance exams by introducing a three-step liberalization scheme.
Under the plan, universities will be able to decide whether to use the student's school records or the entrance examination score when selecting freshmen. Lee also plans to reduce the number of subjects included in the college entrance exams.
Lee promised to expand financial support for schools in underdeveloped regions, while reminding schools to be responsible for sufficiently educating students who fall behind.
Lee said that tailored welfare services including ``welfare-to-work'' packages could be a solution to the widening income gap between wealthy and poor families.
During his term as mayor of Seoul, the Seoul Metropolitan City government adopted an alternative welfare policy for homeless people ― a two-phased program of job placement after vocational training.
``I learned a lesson that the government should set clear goals such as policy targets and priorities and then provide tailored services to meet them,'' Lee said.
``Spending on all entire low-income families is unlikely to be effective. Instead, policymakers should focus on specific target groups and policies,'' he said.
Lee said that economic prosperity and an overall improvement in the standard of living can both be achieved if conditions are met.
``Finding an alternative engine for growth, creating jobs through stimulating investment and putting a working welfare system in place are the three core elements for balanced growth,'' he added.