[INSIGHT]What colors for Roh's candidacy?Now that Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon have finally decided the "who" part of their single candidacy for the presidential election (Mr. Roh), the next question is "what color?"
What kind of candidacy will emerge from their union and what magnitude of power will they yield? Mr. Roh is known to be a center-left progressive. Mr. Chung leans more to the right. He had once mentioned that his policies were more similar to that of conservative Grand National Party's presidential candidate, Lee Hoi-chang, than Mr. Roh's.
Nevertheless, a union has been made, and it remains to be seen what color Mr. Roh will take on now that he has joined forces with Mr. Chung. It is now up to Mr. Roh to show the final colors of this candidacy.
The television debate between the two held on Nov. 22 revealed differences of opinion. Mr. Roh seemed to regard both the North and the South as equal halves of forces that divided Korea while Mr. Chung supported the legitimacy of the South Korean government. Mr. Roh opted for the standardization of high schools nationwide. Mr. Chung wanted standardization to be gradually abolished. On North Korea's nuclear development program, Mr. Roh called for the continuance of exchange with the North, while Mr. Chung advocated for the halt of all monetary assistance, including the Mount Geumgang tourism project.
With Mr. Roh to lead the team, Mr. Chung will become his campaign manager. This will put Mr. Chung in the position of having to support Mr. Roh in a number of policies that he had opposed. Will Mr. Chung find the inspiration to command a campaign to implement the policies he himself is opposed to? Or will Mr. Chung revise his opinions drastically to better suit Mr. Roh's campaign? And will Mr. Roh oblige Mr. Chung by making amendments to his policies?
The joining of the two candidates means the joining of their support factions. The union between President Kim Dae-jung and the United Liberal Democrats leader Kim Jong-pil was called the "DJP" union, a wordplay on their initials.
Will this be the "RMJ" union? A union means mixing Mr. Chung's policy with Mr. Roh's policy. Just what will be the ratio of Mr. Roh's and Mr. Chung's policies? What modified policies will emerge from such chemistry?
There might be the compromise of a prime ministerial appointment as there had been in the DJP union, but Mr. Chung would only distort his own image if he does not press for his opinions to be reflected. After all, did he not aspire to become the president?
With the Millennium Democratic Party now in a post, those who were against or unsupportive of Roh Moo-hyun's candidacy might become more cooperative and obedient to Mr. Roh. There are even rumors of some of those who had left the party returning. Mr. Roh's reaction to returning Millennium Democrats, as to much else, remains to be seen.
Mr. Roh must now also clarify his relation with outgoing President Kim Dae-jung. The candidate had once vowed to take on all Mr. Kim's businesses and debts -- only to recant later. There are even frequent talks about "post-Kim Dae-jung" and "Kim Dae-jung cleansing" among Mr. Roh's own camp. The way certain Kim Dae-jung affiliates and the Donggyo-dong faction, the camp of the president's personal aides, treat Mr. Roh causes confusion as to which side Mr. Roh really belongs to.
Is Mr. Roh really succeeding Mr. Kim's heritage or not? If he is, Mr. Roh must prepare himself to face responsibility for all of Mr. Kim's mistakes and the issues extending from the president's term. Looming straight ahead is the question of the inappropriate loan of 400 billion won ($330 million) to Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. The loan is a problem that demands an explanation from any successor to Mr. Kim because the money, which cannot be accounted for at present, allegedly crossed into North Korea's hands in exchange for arranging the historical meeting between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. Yet an explanation from Mr. Roh could raise immediate protest from his party and be adverse to his campaign.
The question as to where Mr. Roh had been when the Kim Dae-jung administration had committed its numerous misdeeds of planting insiders in government positions and using the prosecution as its personal handmaid could also be raised. Had Mr. Roh ever tried to dissuade the president? So long as he is the Millennium Democratic Party's candidate, Mr. Roh better be prepared to answer such questions.
With the finalization of the single candidacy of Mr. Roh and Mr. Chung, the survey polls will now give way to real election action. From now on, this will be a race of candidate versus candidate, party versus party and policy versus policy.
In this race, all candidates must present their identity, position and policies clearly. It is in such a context that we ask who, or what, is candidate Roh Moo-hyun?
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok