[EDITORIALS]Speak straight, Mr. Chung

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[EDITORIALS]Speak straight, Mr. Chung

Sarcastic jokes about how the nonpartisan presidential candidate Chung Mong-joon often answers questions with irrelevant answers have become popular these days. The Kwanhun Club debate session Monday won't do anything to put these jokes to rest. To one questioner who asked how much of his wealth of 170 billion won ($141 million) was inherited from his father, Mr. Chung answered, "I was so bad in math when I was a schoolboy that I don't quite remember." This question is a key issue concerning Mr. Chung and one that much of the public is curious about. Such an offhand answer to the question promptly raised criticism about Mr. Chung not taking the media seriously. Others criticized his answer as a less-than-upright manner of evading the question.

Mr. Chung's ambiguous way of answering or not answering difficult questions also came to play when he was asked whether he was trying to possess both power and wealth. To this question Mr. Chung made a reference to Microsoft's Bill Gates. At a recent news conference, Mr. Chung had talked about how he envied Mr. Gates and how he wished he were as rich as Mr. Gates so that he could donate as much to charities. At the Kwanhun Club debate, Mr. Chung brought up Mr. Gates's name again saying he thought it would be a good idea if Mr. Gates became South Korea's Minister of Economy.

At a late night debate show on KBS, the candidate was asked what he thought were the three prerequisites for those he wanted to work with him in his new party. Mr. Chung answered the question this way: "Legislators are such great people when you meet them personally, but they become so disappointing when they go to work at the National Assembly." He was also asked how he would react as president should an incident like the naval skirmish in the Yellow Sea recur. His answer: "The government claims it had not interfered when the skirmish took place. However, some say that it did and that the navy could not decide on the appropriate defense measures to take."

Whatever his reasons, such answers raise questions about the trustworthiness, morality and capabilities of Mr. Chung. The public wants to hear straightforward answers from the presidential candidates about their past, their visions for the country and their ideas for an organized set of policies.

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