Gloves come off in South Korea election

SOUTH KOREA has launched into a headlong, no-holds-barred political punch-up as three main candidates vie for the presidency in next week's elections.

What had seemed several months ago to be a simple stroll into the presidential Blue House for the ruling party's candidate, Kim Young Sam, has now turned into a desperate three-way race that is still wide open. The man who has brought this about is Chung Ju Yung, a business magnate who is running a Ross Perot-style no-nonsense campaign that has taken the ruling party by surprise.

The elections on 18 December are particularly important for South Korea. Not only will the winner be the first civilian president to rule the country after a series of generals but he will have to preside over a restructuring of the Korean economy. This is limping along at a mere 3 per cent growth rate - up to now Koreans have been used to double-digit growth. Most importantly, during his five-year tenure the president will probably be faced with the prospect of total economic collapse in Communist North Korea, with all the perils and opportunities that will entail.

Mr Kim's advisers had until recently dismissed Mr Chung, the 77-year-old founder of the nation's second largest conglomerate, Hyundai, as a passing fad. They thought he would not attract voters, and that Mr Kim could then easily defeat the other main candidate, Kim Dae Jung. But it is now possible that Mr Chung will take away enough of Kim Young Sam's votes to allow the veteran opposition leader, Kim Dae Jung, finally to realise his dream of the presidency.

The well-funded and highly mobile Mr Chung - he campaigns across the country 10 hours a day in his private helicopter - has taken everyone by surprise with his surge in support. He has pledged to halve the cost of housing, treble South Korea's per capita GNP in five years, and reduce inflation from 10 per cent to 3 per cent. How he would achieve this remains vague, but the message is more appealing than Kim Young Sam's abstract promises of political and economic reform.

As opinion polls showed Mr Chung's popularity increasing, the government launched a full-scale tax investigation into his Hyundai group last Friday. There have been allegations that the group is funnelling large amounts of money into Mr Chung's presidential campaign, and that Hyundai staff are being ordered to canvass for their boss. Hyundai executives have been called in for questioning, causing the group to threaten to shut down all its operations if the official harassment does not stop.

Meanwhile Mr Chung's party, the United People's Party, is hitting back with allegations of money politics against Kim Young Sam. Yesterday they produced initialled wrist watches and men's underwear that they say are being handed out by the ruling party to voters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower