Korea's Poll: How the presidential candidates line up
Thursday 18 December 1997
Age: He says 74. His birth certificate 72.
National Congress for New Politics
Kim's long political career has matched the political progress of South Korea. As a dissident and radical during the dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s he was imprisoned, kidnapped by the secret police and sentenced to death for his opposition activities.
Since the coming of democracy in 1987 he has played down his radical image in an attempt to broaden his popularity, but he has lost three previous presidential elections. Wears a lot of make up to cover his wrinkles, and compares himself to Tony Blair.
The Challenger - Lee Hoi Chang
Age: 62 Grand National Party
Lee is the candidate of the establishment, the product of an elite education who became a Supreme Court judge. As prime minister he enhanced his reputation for integrity after being sacked for standing up to President Kim Young Sam. His setback came earlier in the year when opponents claimed he had used his influence to exempt his sons from military service - but he could easily win today. Only Lee has consistently supported the IMF's restructuring plan, but his backers in the chaebol - Korea's giant conglomerates - will pressure him to pull his punches.
The Outsider: Rhee In Je
New Party by the People
If Kim wins today, he will owe victory to Rhee, a former cabinet minister and provincial governor who set up on his own after losing the ruling party nomination. His relative youth and lack of party funding leave with no chance of winning; instead, he is setting out his stall and establishing his identity for future elections.
Rather alarmingly, Rhee compares himself to Park Chung Hee, the assassinated dictator of the 1970s, whose reputation is enjoying a revival - he even changed his haircut to enhance the resemblance and likes to point out that he is the same height as the deceased general.
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