Q&A: "I Want a New Culture to Take Root"

South Korean President-elect Roh Moo Hyun agreed to answer written questions submitted by Seoul Bureau Chief Moon Ihlwan. Excerpts:

Q: There are concerns in the U.S. that you will oppose any military action or isolation of North Korea even if Pyongyang presses ahead with its nuclear program. Will you?

A: I have put forward three principles to resolve the North Korea question. First, no nuclear weapons will be tolerated in North Korea. Second, the matter should be resolved peacefully. Third, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan will closely consult over the matter, and we South Koreans will play an active role. Our government will not mediate between North Korea and the U.S., but will stand alongside the U.S. in trying to find a peaceful solution. We want to play a role.

Q: What do you think should change in Korea-U.S. ties?

A: Our alliance with the U.S. is the cornerstone of our security, and U.S. troops stationed in South Korea are its basis. But many Korean youths born after the war maintain that Korea-U.S. ties are not equal and that Korean pride and respect are not properly upheld. I'll try to strengthen our solid alliance--and create a partnership on an equal footing.

Q: To win, you relied heavily on the younger generation. Do you believe in their ability to run the country?

A: My relationship with the younger generation began in 1981 when I defended students charged with sedition. I was with them where tear gas shells rained, talking through the night, defying the threats of the military dictatorship. But my personal experiences and state affairs are two different matters. The role of those from the younger generation will be limited to that of advisers, as it has been so far.

Q: You have said you are pro-business but against chaebol abuses. Which abuses must end?

A: There are certainly areas requiring improvement in corporate governance. Among new measures to be introduced are class actions to control dishonesty in accounting and disclosure. I also plan to maintain a cap on cross-shareholdings among affiliated companies in the chaebol. Audits must also be carried out in a more neutral and transparent manner.

Q: What changes do you want to see by the end of your five-year term?

A: I want a new culture to take root so that democratic principles and trust are firmly restored. I would like to see a transparent and fair economy where growth and distribution [of wealth] are balanced. We also have the task of preparing a new, peaceful, and prosperous era in northeast Asia. There is one necessary condition to achieve these goals: Bring peace to the Korean peninsula. In that regard, the North Korean nuclear problem must be resolved peacefully.

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