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S. Korea Football Chief Announces Presidential Bid - 2002-09-17

The head of South Korea's Football Association and a member of one of Korea's richest families will run in the country's coming presidential elections. Chung Mong-Joon hopes to capitalize on his popularity following South Korea's successful run in the World Cup football championship.

Announcing his candidacy for the December presidential elections, Chung Mong-Joon pledged to rid South Korean politics of factionalism and regionalism. Mr. Chung says the key issues of the race will be reconciliation with North Korea, economic development and eradicating corruption.

Speaking at a meeting of supporters, Mr. Chung pledged to do his best to be elected president. He says he will comply with the law and run a clean campaign. Mr. Chung plans to form a new political party for the race.

As head of the country's Football Association, Mr. Chung was one of the guiding lights behind the successful World Cup games in South Korea this year. The national team became the first Asian squad to reach the semifinals. Since then, his popularity has soared, along with the popularity of the game.

Mr. Chung also is a vice president of FIFA, football's world governing body, and is an independent legislator in South Korea's National Assembly.

He is the son of legendary industrialist Chung Ju-Yung, who founded the Hyundai group, one of South Korea's largest conglomerates. The elder Mr. Chung ran for president in 1992 and was defeated. He later was convicted of using company money to fund his campaign.

Trade unions at Hyundai oppose the younger Mr. Chung's presidential campaign, fearing he also may use company assets to fund the campaign. Opponents also point to his lack of political experience which they say makes him unsuitable for the post.

The possibility of the rich and good-looking Chung Mong-Jun as president has captured the public imagination. Recent opinion polls show him in a tight race with Lee Hoi-Chang, the opposition party candidate.