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S. Korea Soccer Boss Mulls Office

August 12, 2002

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Basking in South Korea’s successful showing in the World Cup, the nation’s top soccer official indicated Monday he would run for president in elections later this year.

``I am thinking toward running in the presidential elections,″ said Chung Mong-joon in an interview published in Tuesday’s edition of Chosun Ilbo, the nation’s largest newspaper.

``Some people said that after the World Cup, there would be little time for me to prepare for the elections, but I think I have enough time,″ he said.

Chung said he will decide in early September whether to run in the Dec. 19 elections.

Chung, 50, an independent legislator with no political affiliation, has always been considered a possible contender.

He apparently was buoyed by opinion polls that put him ahead of two prominent candidates representing the nation’s political establishment.

Chung’s popularity surged after the World Cup in June, in which South Korea advanced to the final four after beating Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain and tying with the United States. In the semifinals, it lost to Germany.

Some pro-government politicians who are pushing to form a new party ahead of the presidential voting are wooing Chung to become their standard bearer. Chung indicated that he would consider the offer.

President Kim Dae-jung’s single five-year term ends in February. The candidate of the party that he founded, Roh Mu-hyun, is trailing opposition candidate Lee Hoi-chang in opinion polls.

Corruption scandals involving two of Kim’s sons and some government officials have eroded support for Roh.

Chung, whose father Chung Ju-yung founded the Hyundai conglomerate, is the controlling shareholder in Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipbuilder. He also serves a vice president of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

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