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 You are in: Special Report: 1997: Korean elections 97  
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Thursday, 10 December, 1998, 09:55 GMT
Lee Hoi-chang: A political profile
Lee Hoi Chang: was portrayed as clean-cut
BBC Asia Specialist Larry Jagan reports from Seoul on Lee Hoi-chang, the defeated nationalist candidate who had high hopes of becoming president of South Korea.

As there was little difference between the main two rivals on policy, much of the campaign concentrated on the image of the candidates.

Supporters of the nationalist candidate, Lee Hoi-chang, portrayed him as a clean-cut politician with integrity.

The 62-year-old son of a public prosecutor rose through the South Korean public service to become a supreme court judge.

His supporters pointed out that while on the bench he stood up to the country's military authorities on a number of occasions.

During his three-month stint as prime minister in 1993 he also showed he was prepared to challenge President Kim Young-sam on matters of principle.

He refused to serve as a prime minister without power and resigned.

During his campaign, his advisors stressed his legal background and his commitment to strengthening the rule of law and stamp out corruption in South Korean politics and society.

But Mr Lee's image of integrity was badly tainted by allegations that his two sons avoided compulsory military service by deliberately losing weight before the army medical examination.

While countering this scandal, he was also at pains to address his image of being stern and aloof.

He dyed his hair black, changed his glasses and served as a waiter in several restaurants during the campaign in an attempt to project a warmer image.

Ever since Mr Lee won the ruling New Korea party's presidential nomination in July, he has been trying to distance himself from the current president Kim Young Sam.

For months he trailed in the polls. But the alliance with another presidential candidate and former Seoul mayor, Cho Soon, and the merger of their parties to form the Grand National Party, revived his campaign.

Many voters seemed unconvinced that Mr Lee would be able to reform both the economy and South Korean society.

The opposition seized every possible opportunity to remind the electorate that the very same people who were blamed for the country's current economic problems were leading members of Mr Lee's Grand National party.

Links to more Korean elections 97 stories are at the foot of the page.


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