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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

Sekyong Lee - Black Star for Asiaweek
S O U T H   K O R E A:
CHoo Mi Ae
Kim Min Seok
Nam Kyun Pil

Choo Mi Ae
Born 1958
A new breed of politicians and activists are ready to break the shackles of the past, here listed by country:

The People Power Century
Combining idealism and pragmatic political instincts, these leaders are repudiating politics-as-usual

Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying

India Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chandrababu Naidu

Indonesia Andi Mallarangeng, Munir, and Emmy Hafild

Japan Noda Seiko, Shii Kazuo and Watanabe Yoshimi

Malaysia Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Lim Guan Eng

Philippines Manuel Roxas II and Michael Defensor

Singapore Teo Chee Hean and George Yeo

South Korea Choo Mi Ae, Kim Min Seok and Nam Kyung Pil

Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Thailand Chaturon Chaisang and Abhisit Vejjajiva

Business & Finance
Journeying Beyond the Crisis
Born amidst unparalleled prosperity and tempered by adversity, a new generation of business leaders is poised to take the region to new levels of success in banking, commerce and industry

Choo Mi Ae cuts a different figure in Korean politics. And it's not just because she is a woman in a male-dominated world. She hails from Taegu in North Kyongsang province - bastion of the conservative, military-linked political elite that ruled Korea for three decades. Yet she joined the camp of President Kim Dae Jung. As a native of Kyongsang's bitter rival Cholla, Kim isn't the most popular figure in Taegu.

Choo's repudiation of regional ties stems from her 12-year tenure as a district-court judge. In the 1980s, when the government was cracking down on democracy fighters, labor activists and pro-North sympathizers, she presided over numerous "trials of conscience." She recalls: "There was tremendous pressure from the government to pass certain judgments." Eventually deciding that change was needed, she quit the bench and joined Kim's National Congress for New Politics (NCNP). "I believed that Kim was the only one who could reform the country." In 1996, she ran for the National Assembly in a Seoul constituency and won comfortably.

Choo, 41, points out the problems in Korea's political culture: "We are not tolerant of others. We do not respect each other. There is no transparency. Rather than having an open debate, politicians prefer to huddle in a small room and bargain." But she expresses hope in the younger generation of leaders, who she feels are less tied to the cozy, corrupt ways of the past. She is currently a member of a committee overseeing President Kim's pet project: forming a new party to replace the NCNP. "This party will have a lot of fresh blood," she says. "I am convinced this is the only way we can get past the old system and usher in a new one."

Sekyong Lee - Black Star for Asiaweek
Kim Min Seok
Born 1964
He was a little too young to be part of the student protests that culminated in the brutal 1980 Kwangju crackdown. Still, Kim Min Seok took up where his elders left off, joining the struggle against strongman Chun Doo Hwan's regime upon entering university. His agitations as a student leader got him three years of jail time; he did not graduate from college until after he was released in 1988.

Now 35, Kim has lost none of his edge. He blames the financial crisis on the business-politics collusion that flourished under military rule. "We have seen that corruption was prevalent from the president down to all levels of government and politics," he says. "It was a failure of the political system."

Kim belongs to a new breed of young, rising politicians who are trying to rectify that failure. A lawmaker with the ruling National Congress for New Politics, Kim is a member of several committees, including the president's young advisors group. Ultimately, the former firebrand's goal boils down to one thing: ensuring the well-being of the people. He declares: "As a politician, I take this as a major task ahead of me." Spoken like a true student activist.- By Laxmi Nakarmi/Seoul

Sekyong Lee - Black Star for Asiaweek
Nam Kyung Pil
At 34, he is the youngest member of the National Assembly. Nam Kyung Pil had the position foisted on him when his father, a legislator with the opposition Grand National Party, died last year. Nam interrupted his doctoral studies in the U.S. and returned home to win his father's post in a by-election.

For Nam, the scourge of Korean politics is regionalism. The tendency to rally around a single leader from one's own province, he says, contributes to the "neverending one-man rule in Korean political parties," as typified by the practice whereby the party boss nominates all the candidates during elections. "We have to replace the top-down nomination system with a bottom-up system," he says. "Let the grassroots members decide. This will also help democratize the country further and instill the spirit in other aspects of life." Other issues on his plate include social welfare and environmental protection.

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