Lee Myung-bak becomes S Korean president | world | Hindustan Times
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Lee Myung-bak becomes S Korean president

world Updated: Feb 25, 2008 13:28 IST

AP
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Hard-charging former businessman Lee Myung-bak became South Korea's new president on Monday with a mandate to boost the economy and take a tougher line on nuclear-armed North Korea.

The conservative, pro-US Lee, nicknamed 'The Bulldozer' for the can-do image he honed as a construction company CEO and later as mayor of Seoul, was to take the oath of office amid a booming artillery salute at the National Assembly at 11 am (0730 IST).

Lee's assumption to the presidency ends a decade of liberal rule that critics say hindered economic growth, was too soft on communist North Korea and fomented tension with traditional close ally Washington.

Tens of thousands of officials and ordinary citizens were to attend the inauguration. Foreign dignitaries including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda were also to take part.

His single five-year term, succeeding predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, officially began at midnight (2030 IST yesterday).

Lee, the 10th man to be South Korea's president and the first to come from a business background, overwhelmingly won December's election on a promise to make the economy his top priority.

He has promised to achieve annual growth of 7 per cent, and over a decade double the country's per capita income to $40,000 and make South Korea one of the world's top seven economies.

Highlighting the key numbers in each of these goals, he has called this his "747" pledge, meant to evoke a soaring jumbo jet.

To realise the goal, Lee, 66, says he will slash regulations, initiate tax reforms, streamline government and draw in more foreign investment. South Korea's economy grew 4.9 per cent last year and 5 per cent the year before, but Lee says it has underperformed.