[EDITORIALS]The Roh-Chung coalition

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[EDITORIALS]The Roh-Chung coalition

Roh Moo-hyun, presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party, and Chung Mong-joon, leader of National Unity 21, formally joined hands yesterday and sealed their coalition for the Dec. 19 presidential election. A joint agreement merging the policies of the two parties was signed, and they will campaign jointly.

Surely, it must have been difficult for Mr. Roh to accept Mr. Chung's demand that government cash assistance to North Korea be halted unless Pyeongyang resolves questions over its nuclear program. Another key Chung demand was that revision of the constitution to create a U.S.-style presidency should be put before the National Assembly in 2004, with the revision to take effect for the next presidential election. These issues are sensitive and likely to trigger heated controversy.

The two parties should keep in mind that voters will draw parallels between the Roh-Chung coalition and the coalition forged five years ago between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil. Labeled as a left-leaning liberal, Kim Dae-jung's camp sought partnership with the conservative Kim Jong-pil so eagerly that they catered to every one of his demands except for the office of the Blue House. They agreed to form a joint cabinet with Kim Jong-pil's political party and to adopt a parliamentary form of government. Once the president took office, however, the two partners were intent on securing their share of power rather than carrying out the political changes that they had promised.

The bitter experience of the past five years makes the voters reluctant to give the Roh-Chung coalition the benefit of the doubt. The coalition was reached after 17 days of agonizing negotiations. We should examine whether the joint pledges the two have fielded are implementable, whether any covert side deals were struck, and what is different this time that would keep these partners from following the path of their political predecessors. Voters will be making their decisions based on the partners' words and actions in the remaining six days before D-day.

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