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(LEAD) Dark horse presidential candidate launches party ahead of election

All Headlines 16:56 October 30, 2007

(ATTN: UPDATES paras 1-2 with developments; ADDS candidate's remark in para 3; CHANGES headline in line)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- An independent presidential candidate, ranked third in opinion polls, launched his own party Tuesday to boost his campaign ahead of the December election.

Moon Kook-hyun officially launched the "Creative Korea Party" at a Seoul rally attended by over 300 supporters.

"We can create many chances by eliminating corruption," Moon said, vowing to streamline South Korea's huge construction industry and plow its benefits into the education sector.

President Roh Moo-hyun has been rumored to have Moon in mind as his successor, although the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae recently said Roh has too little information about Moon to support him.

Moon, for his part, has said that if that is the case, he is free from allegations of connections to Roh but also from the criticism that Roh failed to properly deal with soaring real estate prices, rising joblessness and North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Roh's ruling Uri Party disbanded months ago due to the sliding popularity of Roh only to be absorbed into the pro-government United New Democratic Party, which in mid October chose former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young as its standard bearer for the December election.

In a prelude to a rapprochement between Roh and Chung, the presidential office has asked Chung to apologize for what the presidential office said was the eviction of Roh from the Uri Party that facilitated the party's collapse. Cheong Wa Dae later said Roh is a "passive" supporter of Chung.

Moon, 58, stepped down in August as head of Yuhan-Kimberly Ltd., the South Korean unit of U.S. healthcare goods giant Kimberly-Clark Corp., to run in the Dec. 19 election.

He has a public approval rating of 9 percent according to the latest poll conducted by Gallup Korea, a local pollster.

He trails far behind the candidate of the conservative opposition Grand National Party, Lee Myung-bak, who maintains a steady lead with ratings over 50 percent since his August nomination.

Chung, a former unification minister, comes second with ratings of between 15 and 20 percent.

Moon has gradually gained ground due largely to his image as a labor- and eco-friendly leader.

President Roh Moo-hyun's five-year single term ends in Feb. 2008. He is legally banned from seeking reelection.

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