- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

SEOUL Roh Moo-hyun, presidential candidate of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, has at least one thing in common with the man he wants to succeed: jail time.
Like outgoing President Kim Dae-jung, the 54-year-old Mr. Roh was imprisoned by the country's military leaders in the 1980s for advocating greater democracy.
Before his three-month jail stint in 1987, the former lawyer had compiled an extensive record as a human rights activist, most notably for defending victims of torture and helping lead the 1987 protests against strongman Chun Doo-hwan.
Mr. Chun was ousted and Mr. Roh entered the National Assembly the next year. He made his mark early as an aggressive anticorruption fighter and has carved out an image as a friend to South Korea's workers and less well-off. Unlike the wealthy Lee Hoi-chang, Mr. Roh came from a impoverished peasant family in the southern part of Korea.
Despite his long political career, Mr. Roh has only slight foreign policy credentials. He has never visited the United States and has only traveled to three countries outside South Korea.
His relative inexperience could boost the clout of Chung Mong-joon, his electoral ally in the campaign. Mr. Roh announced over the weekend that he would dispatch Mr. Chung, a wealthy industrialist who spearheaded South Korea's successful World Cup soccer bid, to Washington, Beijing and Pyongyang within weeks after the election to discuss the North Korea crisis.
Mr. Roh carries considerable baggage as Mr. Kim's standard-bearer, as the president's approval ratings are below 30 percent. The government has also been tarred by a number of financial and personal scandals, although Mr. Roh has managed to maintain a clean image.
Mr. Roh is married and has a son and a daughter.


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