Candidate catches attention in debate

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Candidate catches attention in debate

Representative Noh Mu-hyun of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, a presidential hopeful, caught attention recently with his frank talk about prospects for the 2002 presidential election on a television debate.

Asked if he would gracefully bow out to Representative Rhee In-je, probably the strongest presidential candidate within the ruling party, Mr. Noh said, "It would be hard to recognize defeat, but I will accept the result."

But the former minister of maritime affairs and fisheries hesitated noticeably before saying he would support Mr. Rhee if he wins the nomination at the April 20 party convention.

When a member of Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. panel asked why he diverted 170 million won ($130,000) of his assets to his wife and son he said, "My wife basically confiscated that money, saying I was wasting my cash on politics. She considers me nearly incompetent in that regard." Mr. Noh reported 800 million won in personal wealth last year.

Asked whether he ever felt a conflict of interest in representing the lower income class while at the same time being an avid golfer, Mr. Noh said, "I sometimes criticize the so-called 'conservative' forces, but I mingle with people who have different thoughts. As for golf, I think I should have learned it earlier."

Mr. Noh, who became a lawyer despite only earning a high school degree, said he dares not try to change the unnecessarily high value Korean society places on an educational pedigree.

Two major broadcasting networks - MBC and YTN, a 24-hour cable news network - started airing television debates featuring presidential hopefuls Friday. Television debates were first adopted in Korea for the 1997 presidential election.

by Kang Min-seok

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