[EDITORIALS]New party, old questions

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[EDITORIALS]New party, old questions

Chung Mong-joon, an independent lawmaker and the man who brought the World Cup to Korea, has made an official announcement of his presidential bid as the candidate of the newly-created National Unity 21. That move marks a new political life for him, putting an end to his career as a maverick for the first time in 10 years. In 1992, he was a member of a now-defunct political party that his father and founder of the Hyundai Group, Chung Ju-young, created to run for president. In an acceptance speech, the younger Mr. Chung announced the new party's goal of "implementing political reforms and ending corrupt politics." He also said, "A young leader with a new view of history and politics must take the leadership."

While the launching of National Unity 21 signals that Mr. Chung's presidential bid is now in full swing, it also poses some challenges to him. The party has to offer clear answers as to why he should be the president and what the new party's line is.

At the core of controversies surrounding Mr. Chung are his ambiguous identity and his lack of vision. He has been under criticism for being bent on garnering support by fueling the anti-Lee Hoi-chang and anti-Roh Moo-hyun sentiments, without presenting his unique political color or a blueprint of how he would run the country. He has also been indecisive about any unity with Mr. Roh, the Millennium Democratic Party candidate. So he has always been dogged by criticism that he depends too much on image-making politics without any substance, being obsessed with opinion polls and trying to ride on the coattails of Korea's World Cup performance. That is why his sagging popularity has given Mr. Lee, of the Grand National Party, a solid lead over both Mr. Chung and Mr. Roh.

Mr. Chung has to offer clear explanations about key issues, including suspicions about his involvement in the rigging of Hyundai Electronics Industries Co.'s share price and his rudeness to his subordinates. In front of the glitzy rhetoric decorating the new party's launch lies a tough road of the public test.

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