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NYTimes.com Article: Liberal Elected by South Koreans
by threehegemons
20 December 2002 03:44 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by threehegemons@aol.com.

Regarding Wallerstein's analysis, it looks like Bush has lost another election. 
 And one might also describe the events in Venezuela over the last couple of 
days as a defeat for Bush.

Steven Sherman


Liberal Elected by South Koreans

December 20, 2002


SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 19 - Roh Moo Hyun, who favors
continued engagement with North Korea and greater autonomy
from the United States, triumphed today in a tight
presidential election. The outcome, after a campaign marked
by huge anti-American demonstrations, sets South Korea and
the United States on the most divergent diplomatic paths in
half a century of close alliance. 

The Bush administration has spent the last three months
pressing traditional friends like Japan and newer ones,
like Russia and China, to put heavy pressure on North Korea
to force that country to abandon a once secret nuclear
weapons program and to end its missile sales to the Middle
East and Pakistan. 

Mr. Roh, a lawyer, was the candidate of the governing
Millennium Democratic Party. He staked his campaign on
continued engagement with North Korea, despite its
threatening nuclear program and quirky, often impenetrable
diplomacy. He has forcefully ruled out deadlines for
compliance or economic sanctions to force his country's
impoverished Communist neighbor to respect its
international engagements. 

In Washington, James A. Kelly, the assistant secretary of
state for Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters that
the Bush administration viewed today's election as an
opportunity to work with President-elect Roh "to build an
even stronger relationship between our two countries for
this new century." 

Mr. Kelly sought to minimize differences between Mr. Roh
and the administration on North Korea and other issues,
suggesting that those differences might have been unfairly
magnified during the heat of the campaign. 

Mr. Roh's main rival, Lee Hoi Chang, a staunchly
conservative former Supreme Court justice, said during the
campaign that South Korea should suspend its assistance to
North Korea until it cooperated on a host of issues, from
arms control to the reunion of families separated since the
Korean War. 

Mr. Lee's defeat today was his second; he lost even more
narrowly to the departing president, Kim Dae Jung, five
years ago. Mr. Kim was barred by the Constitution from
seeking a second term. 

Mr. Roh's commitment to engagement with North Korea, the
most important legacy of his political mentor, President
Kim, has been so pronounced at times that it produced a
stunning last-minute turn of events that many here thought
could have cost him the election. 

In the final day of campaigning on Wednesday, Mr. Roh's
comments about North Korea shocked a former rival candidate
and 11th-hour supporter, Chung Mong Joon, scion of the
Hyundai empire, causing him to drop their painstakingly
arranged alliance. 

With Mr. Chung standing nearby, Mr. Roh said that "if the
U.S. and North Korea start a war, we will stop it," a
comment read by some as implying that South Korea would
take a neutral position. 

Through a spokesman, Mr. Chung denounced the speech,
saying, "The United States is our ally, and our view is
that the U.S. has no reason to fight North Korea." 

Mr. Chung's abrupt withdrawal of support was front-page
news in every daily this morning, and most commentators
here assumed that it would wreck Mr. Roh's chances. 

The two men forged their alliance only last month after
opinion surveys consistently placed Mr. Lee as the
front-runner. Mr. Roh, who had been placing third in the
opinion polls, defeated Mr. Chung in a hastily arranged
primary and was catapulted into the front-runner's

This afternoon, with his triumph not yet assured, Mr. Roh
restated the assertive diplomatic position he had taken
throughout the campaign. 

"We must have dialogue with the North and with the U.S.,"
Mr. Roh, 56, told a crowd in downtown Seoul. "In this way
we must make sure that the North-U.S. dispute does not
escalate into a war. Now the Republic of Korea must take a
central role. We cannot have a war." 

South Korean politics have a long history of treacherous
twists, bold dirty tricks and corresponding conspiracy
theories. So theories abounded today about Mr. Chung's
motives. People invoked everything from a fear of a
vendetta against Hyundai if Mr. Lee won to heavy backstage
lobbying by Washington, which has 37,000 troops in South

"Almost everyone expected that Chung's move would do a lot
more damage," said Yim Young Soon, a political scientist at
Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. "In the end, the fact
that Chung defaulted seemed to solidify Roh's support. 

"On the North Korean nuclear threat, the conventional
wisdom said it would help Lee Hoi Chang, but people who
live close to the demilitarized zone turned out to prefer
Roh's more peaceful approach." 

Hwang Yeon Yae, 53, who owns a snack shop in a
working-class Seoul neighborhood, said he and his friends
talked all night about "Chung's betrayal." He added: "But
the people here are strongly behind Roh, and I don't think
it will change many people's minds. That's Korean

That judgment proved correct. Nearly complete election
results showed Mr. Roh winning with 48.9 percent of the
vote, compared with 46.6 percent for Mr. Lee. 

If relations with North Korea were at the center of the
campaign from the very start, South Korea's ties with the
United States were the barely concealed subtext. 

Huge crowds have massed in Seoul and other cities to
protest the recent acquittal by a United States military
tribunal of two American soldiers in the accidental death
of two schoolgirls who were crushed by an armored vehicle
in June. 

The outpouring of anti-American sentiment appeared to help
Mr. Roh, who advocated the withdrawal of American troops
from South Korea when he was a labor lawyer in the 1980's.
The protests appeared to put Mr. Lee, whose diplomatic
views are close to those of the Bush administration, on the

Already assured of strong support from the young and the
working class, Mr. Roh edged toward the center, repeatedly
stating that his opposition to American bases had been
mistaken and that he valued the alliance with the United

Often asked during the campaign why he had never visited
the United States, though, Mr. Roh was quick to flash his
diffident side, replying pointedly that he was not
interested in going to Washington "just for the sake of a
photo op." 

Mr. Roh's challenge now is to reconcile the dual yearnings
of South Korea's sophisticated and increasingly affluent
younger generations for more autonomy from the United
States and reduced tensions with North Korea with continued
reliance on American security. 

"The challenge will be between accommodating popular
aspirations and meeting the demands of the Bush
administration," said Scott Snyder, Korea representative of
the Asia Foundation. "The new president is going to face
critical decisions in three areas: redefining the
relationship with the U.S., managing relations with North
Korea and reorienting Korea's relations in the regional

Mr. Roh's victory represents a rise against tremendous
odds. In South Korea's highly class-conscious society, he
was born to a family of peach and chicken farmers in a
ramshackle farming village now within the city of Kimhae in
the southeast. 

Mr. Lee, his chief rival, is a patrician lawyer and former
prime minister, and Mr. Chung one of the richest men in
South Korea. 

Mr. Roh was too poor to attend college. Yet he studied law
for years and was admitted to the bar in 1975. Mr. Roh
spent the politically turbulent early 1980's defending
student and labor activists against the military government
and formally joined the democracy movement in 1987, winning
a seat in Parliament from Pusan in 1988.


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