The governments of both North and South Korea are firmly focused on the latter’s December presidential elections. With conservative opposition candidates leading in South Korean opinion polls, Mr. Roh Moo Hyun, the incumbent in Seoul, and Mr. Kim Jong Il, his counterpart in Pyongyang, are eager to alter the campaign dynamic, shift the balance of power in favor of progressive forces in the South, and create an economic fait accompli for the next president. That effort shifted into high gear last week when the two countries’ prime ministers met in Seoul. Increasing integration between North and South is a good thing, but the process must make political and economic sense. The record to date is not reassuring.

After 10 years of progressive leadership, South Koreans appear ready to elect a conservative to the Blue House. The sources of dissatisfaction with Mr. Roh are many, but a sense of national drift, failed economic policies and a feeling that his North Korea policy has yielded little fruit dominate thinking. Mr. Roh has no illusions about his standing with the voters and has been working assiduously to repair his image, secure his legacy and boost the prospects of a like-minded successor.

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