|Revised Romanization||I Hoe-chang|
Lee Hoi-chang (Korean pronunciation: [ihøtɕʰaŋ]; born June 2, 1935) is a South Korean politician. A Catholic, he was born to an elite family in Seoheung, Hwanghae (part of what is now North Korea), but grew up in the south after his father, a public prosecutor, was appointed to a new post.
Like his father, Lee studied law at Seoul National University and became a judge at the age of 25. He became the country's youngest-ever Supreme Court judge at the age of 46. Lee was nicknamed "Bamboo", a Korean term for an upright person of principle.
In 1988 Lee was appointed chief of the National Election Commission and in 1993 he headed the Board of Audit and Inspection under President Kim Young-sam. Subsequently he was appointed prime minister the same year, but resigned after a few months, frustrated at the lack of real power in the mainly ceremonial position.
In 1996 he led the parliamentary campaign of the then-ruling New Korea Party (NKP), which merged with another party to become the current Grand National Party (GNP) in 1997. Lee was elected as his party's presidential candidate for the presidential election scheduled for that same year. Although at the outset he seemed destined for victory, Lee ultimately lost to Kim Dae-jung in the midst of Asian economic crisis.
Lee again campaigned to win the presidency in 2002. Although corruption scandals marred the incumbent government, Lee, unable to cope with his opponent's youthful and vigorous campaign strategy, lost this time to Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae-jung's successor. Lee subsequently announced his retirement from politics.
Lee's platform for both elections was consistent with the basic tenets of South Korean conservatism which included a tough stance toward North Korea, market-oriented and pro-business economic policies, and cracking down on illegal strikes. Lee and his party repeatedly criticized Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" and insisted that financial aid to North Korea be cut off until nuclear weapon program was dismantled.
On November 7, 2007, Lee officially announced his third campaign for the South Korean presidency as an unaligned candidate after quitting the GNP. He ran against GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak, UNDP contender Chung Dong-young, and Moon Kook-hyun. Lee's presidential bid posed a concern to the conservatives who were eager to regain the presidency after a decade of leftist rule, as it was feared Lee's candidacy would divide the conservative vote. However, Lee came third, with 15% of the vote, and the GNP candidate Lee Myung-bak was elected.
After his failed 2007 election bid, Lee founded the Liberty Forward Party.