President Lee Myung-bak flew down to Jeju Island over the weekend to visit with former US president George W. Bush. Bush was there to speak at an economic forum organized by the Federation of Korean Industries.
The two leaders had dinner together on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday, and took a walk by the sea. The two were close ever since Lee's election in February 2008. President Lee went to meet Bush at Camp David less than two months after Lee's election. This was a marked change in relations between the two countries' leaders, since Bush had rarely seen eye-to-eye on Lee's predecessor.
The two men spoke about personal matters mostly. The president compliment Bush on his health, to which Bush responded by saying it was due to light-heartedness from leaving office. However, Bush also congratulated Lee on the quick economic recovery that Korea had experienced.
Bush praised Lee's decision to donate his personal fortune to charity, which Lee had promised during the campaign and followed through with last month. He will donate W33.2 billion (US$26.2 million) to establish a scholarship foundation for students in need. Bush also mentioned his own plans to promote the values of freedom and democracy, setting up a library and research center for that goal.
The Federation of Korea Industries is the largest South Korean lobbyist group. At the forum, Bush stressed the importance of ratifying the Korea-US free trade agreement in order to fight against the economic downturn. The former president argued against government intervention in difficult times, stressing the role of the private sector in stabilizing free trade. He said the quickest road to recovery will come when corporations themselves recover.