S. Korean ex-premier Lee Han Dong to run for presidency

S. Korean ex-premier Lee Han Dong to run for presidency

SEOUL, Sept. 16 Kyodo

Former South Korean Prime Minister Lee Han Dong announced Monday that he has decided to run in the December presidential election.

In a speech to a group of journalists, the 68-year-old Lee said he is ready to put his extensive experience in public administration to use in the service of his country.

Lee, who was replaced as prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle carried out by President Kim Dae Jung on July 11, was elected as lawmaker in 1981 on the ticket of the then ruling Democratic Justice Party founded by then President Chun Doo Hwan.

He is currently sixth-term unaffiliated lawmaker.

Lee stressed that the reins of political power should next be given to somebody from his native Kyonggi region surrounding Seoul rather than again somebody from the Kyongsang or Cholla regions.

”The third region should take over the political power that should not be traded between the Kyongsang and Cholla provinces to eliminate regional animosity and achieve national harmony to enhance the nation’s development and realize national unification,” Yonhap News Agency quoted him as saying.

Regional rivalry weights heavily in South Korea’s politics with presidents from South and North Kyongsang provinces having ruled the nation for nearly 36 years until Kim from South Cholla Province rose to the presidency in 1997.

Recent opinion polls show Lee Hoi Chang, presidential candidate from the Grand National Party, is leading over Roh Moo Hyun, the candidate from the Millennium Democratic Party founded by Kim, ahead of the Dec. 19 presidential election.

Chung Mong Joon, head of South Korea’s Football Association and scion of the Hyundai Business Group, has said he would make a formal announcement to jump into the presidential election on Tuesday.

Opinion polls show the 50-year-old Chung is a strong dark horse in view of his soared popularity since South Korea’s unprecedented performance in the World Cup soccer finals co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in May and June.

South Korea reached the semi-finals in soccer’s premier event, becoming the first Asian country to reach that level.

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