He is widely seen as a business-friendly candidate and has raised the issue of lifting investment restrictions on conglomerates, a move that might allow them to own banks.
Shareholder rights groups are horrified, seeing this as a moral hazard.
His policies on North Korea are not clear, though he has pledged to accelerate economic cooperation if Pyongyang ends its nuclear program.
A campaign promise to build a mammoth canal from Seoul in the northwest to Pusan in the southeast has been criticized for recalling his glory days as Seoul’s mayor rather being a viable project.
The left-wing Hankyoreh newspaper warned, “Tough road lies ahead for Lee Myung-bak.”
Personal ethics — a make-or-break issue for Korean politicians — could be his downfall.
Reports that relatives earned up to $28 million in real estate speculation, a sensitive issue in egalitarian South Korea, hang over him.