Back To Top

Lee bashes Greek leader for referendum on bailout deal

CANNES, France (Yonhap News) ― South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sharply criticized Greece’s prime minister for putting a bailout plan to a referendum, saying he was shocked the Greek leader made the decision without agreement with other European leaders, officials said Friday.

Lee issued the unusually strong rebuke during the first day of discussions at the G20 summit in the southern French city of Cannes on Thursday, which was overshadowed by the eurozone debt crisis, according to presidential aides.

Under strong pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other European leaders, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou ultimately called off the referendum decision later Thursday.

“The world has plunged into fears again because of the Greek prime minister’s radical step to hold a referendum,” Lee was quoted as saying. “I cannot contain my shock in that this referendum proposal by the Greek prime minister was made without consultations with other eurozone nations.”

“Greece is now standing at the center of the global crisis, and I do not think it is right for it to make a unilateral decision on this matter,” Lee was quoted as saying.

Last month, European leaders worked out a rescue deal for debt-laden Greece, including providing additional bailout funds.

But earlier this week, Papandreou put the plan to a popular vote in an apparent attempt to pass the responsibility for the country’s fate onto the Greek people themselves.

Lee talked about how South Korea endured excruciating corporate and financial restructuring during the 1998 Asian financial crisis that he said led to the closure of about 23,000 firms. Those moves left about 2 million people jobless at the time.

“Two years later, we were back on the path to growth,” Lee said, calling for crisis-hit nations to carry out thorough restructuring measures if they want to receive bailout funds, according to presidential officials.

On Friday, Lee was to attend a second day of discussions at the G20 summit. Topics for the closing day meetings include agriculture, energy and raw material prices, climate change and anti-corruption measures. The summit was to close with a joint declaration.

On the sidelines of the summit, Lee was also to hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lee was to head home later in the day.