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Banking

Korea Development Bank: Koreans divided on fate of a national treasure

South Korea’s new president, Lee Myung Bak, urgently wants the privatization of Korea Development Bank; he hopes it will become globally competitive. But some question the wisdom of the deal. Lawrence White reports from Seoul.

Lee Myung Bak: his desire to push through reforms has earned him the title of “bulldozer” 

Lee Myung Bak: his desire to push through reforms has earned him the title of "bulldozer"

ON A MILD April afternoon in Seoul, a line of converted buses with darkened grille-covered windows brood outside the Korea Exchange building. Just inside the glass doors, neat rows of bored-looking police kneel on riot shields. In tomorrow’s elections, newly elected president Lee Myung Bak will win the slender parliamentary majority needed to enact some of the reforms he has been promising. For now, though, the presence of protesters and police serves as a reminder of the incident just days after his appointment when temporary employees without contracts from Koscom, the Korea Exchange’s information-distributing subsidiary, demonstrated and were forcibly moved on. The narrowness of Lee’s victory and the lingering labour union activism suggest the finely balanced sensibilities at work as Korea looks to reinvigorate its economy and reform its markets. Lee has acquired the nickname "bulldozer" for his unyielding get-it-done attitude and desire to push reform through parliament; he only holds the slimmest majority, however, and the more left-leaning opposition’s popularity is proof that not everyone in Korea is as pro-market as he is.

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