[EDITORIALS]Mr. Lee seeks to impress

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[EDITORIALS]Mr. Lee seeks to impress

Presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang's reform proposal is really something we have never seen before. His promises to exclude Grand National Party Assembly members from the executive branch and to revise the constitution even if it reduces his term in office alone attract attention. To voters fed up with the Kim Dae-jung administration's corruption, Mr. Lee promises to resign from office if family members are implicated in influence-peddling, to place the assets of government appointees under trustee management and to give his own wealth to the state treasury. Clearly, Mr. Lee wants us to see him as an agent of political change.

The proposals reflect the tension of the neck-and-neck presidential competition. Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Demo-cratic Party, Mr. Lee's major rival , is drawing support with his motto to "clean out old-fashioned government." But negative campaigning, such as wiretapping disclosures and diatribes against President Kim, is not helping the GNP attract voters hungry for a new kind of government. The reform proposal is an attempt to turn things around.

To persuade voters, however, Mr. Lee needs to address some questions. His pledge to resign from presidential office if a family member peddles influence is eye-catching, but is it legal? Does the promise to put into blind trust the assets of senior government officials conflict with market principles, which Mr. Lee espouses? Voters will be more skeptical of his pledge to exclude GNP members from his administration. The memory lingers of President Kim's closest aides vowing not to take political office, then reneging.

There can be no political reform without self-sacrifice, Mr. Lee says. But talk must be followed by action, or his unprecedented pledges will be seen as desperate measures to boost his popularity, as charged by the rival MDP. Mr. Lee's party should elaborate on these pledges, which offer it an opportunity to turn from negative to positive campaigning by putting forth a national vision and policy blueprint for Korea's next administration.
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