- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

Chung Mong-joon, a South Korean legislator who is running second in polls for this year's presidential election even before he has announced his candidacy, said yesterday he is determined to end his country's "ideological polarization" and "political corruption."

Speaking in Washington, he also strongly endorsed President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of engagement with North Korea but said that Seoul should be "more confident" in its relationship with China.

"In formulating a policy toward North Korea and others that will affect the future of our people, we should not be victims of partisan politics," Mr. Chung said at a luncheon hosted by the Heritage Foundation. "Both parties must give up the attempts to monopolize the national agenda."

Mr. Chung is a member of Mr. Kim's ruling Millennium Democratic Party, which already has a presidential candidate, Roh Moo-hyun. Mr. Chung is therefore expected either to run as an independent or form his own party.

In recent polls, the leading candidate is Lee Hoi-chang of the conservative Grand National Party, which has majority in parliament, followed by Mr. Chung. Mr. Roh, who is third, lost many supporters after Mr. Kim's two sons were jailed on corruption charges.

Mr. Chung has decided to take advantage of Mr. Roh's weakened candidacy, as well as his own popularity boosted by his chairmanship of South Korea's soccer association. In this capacity, he co-chaired the committee that organized this year's World Cup, where his nation's team reached the semifinals for the first time.

Although he has yet to officially announce that he is running, he said yesterday that "it is foolish to try to escape from what comes to you." He also asked albeit jokingly Heritage's president, Edwin Feulner, to introduce him as "the next president" of South Korea.

"Unfortunately, all of the past seven Korean presidents did not fare well at the end of their terms. I think this is because most of them have sought to reward their supporters and friends while penalizing their enemies and opponents," Mr. Chung said.

"Whoever becomes the next president of Korea, myself included, I hope that we could break this vicious cycle," he said.

He rejected criticism of the sunshine policy, most vocally expressed by Mr. Lee, that "South Korea is changing while North Korea is not."

He noted recent reports that "there is a movement" in the North "toward adopting certain market mechanisms."

"As a result, the price of rice has increased 550 times while the exchange rate has increased by 100 times," he said. "While these data have not been fully verified, North Korea is exploring at least a limited market economy."

South Korean officials prepared yesterday to resume stalled talks with the North this weekend, as Pyongyang and Washington appeared set to reopen a dialogue soon.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Brunei that shunning talks with North Korea could be a costly mistake.

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