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[Column] Public demands fundamental reform

Posted November. 30, 2000 10:10,   


It has been only seven weeks since the announcement of President Kim Dae-Jung as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. As it was the first Nobel Prize for a Korean in any category, the air of festivity lasting for quite some time seemed natural. However, the air of festivity has lost its spirit too quickly, and even the very attendance by the president to the award ceremony has become a point of contention.

The cause of such a shift in focus resulted from the media`s shift to the question of the soundness of President Kim`s policy of governance. The public call for party reform by the chief executives of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) is clear evidence of something amiss.

It is lamentable to see public opinion turned so sour. President Kim, who returned from a trip abroad last night, also must be feeling a bit down. He is a man fully qualified to be a president of a nation. He has been fighting for decades through self-sacrifice and with statesmanship looking toward the future for the inauguration and promotion of democratization, as well as for the reunification of South and North Korea. Such progress is hard to deny.

Then, why are the criticisms so rampant concerning the government and the ruling party led by such a world-renowned politician, not to mention the deeply rooted discontent concerning the very system of governance?

The current core government officials sincerely admit and take responsibility for their mistakes and faults. However, they point their fingers in accusation to the unreasonable lack of cooperation and contentiousness of the "anti-DJ (President Kim Dae-Jung)" sector of society and regionalism as making it more difficult for Kim`s administration, which was forced to adopt a decision-process by a limited few due to the deep-rooted regionalism. Especially, the ruling party and the administration officials take issue that the backlashes by the vested conservative forces have led the media down toward such a path.

The fact that there are many who refuse to grant any merit to even the meritorious works of the president is irrefutable. There are even those who find greater dislike for President Kim the more successfully he accomplishes his work. However, is that enough to rattle the sentiments of the people and even lead them to give up hope on the current administration? Even an objective consideration of various factors surrounding the current situation turns up the answer, a resounding No.

Having witnessed the scandals in the past few years, the majority of the media have begun to suspect that the current government is just as corrupt as past governments. The administration and the ruling party also have failed to dissuade such suspicions. Not to mention the Boutique Lobbying Scandal of last year, this year alone, there has been too massive scandals involving financial institutions for which the government failed to adequate reveal the detail and investigation drifting. Even the very average non-political Joe could see that the investigation was rushed to protect the high-ranking government officials and that the investigation slithered away into Never-Never Land.

As the people witnessed repeated failures of the investigations, which handled scandals that were grave enough to shake the very foundation of the Cabinet, the suspicion of the powerfully influential party figures` involvement only increased. With the social mood taking a worse turn, the rumors that had been kept under the lid among financial institutions are making their way to the public`s ears.

Rumors of the influential political figures involved in investment schemes netting them huge sums of money are beginning to reach the people`s ears not only in Seoul but in many of the provinces, as well. As such, how could any government`s audit and assessment orders have any weight, or the call for party reform any expectation? It is a bit comical to see the ¡°new¡± MDP, which is less than a year old, calling for another renewal. It is much like, ¡®You can change the hair, but not the face.¡¯

However, it is not the time for self-mockery. The situation today is too precarious. In order to prevent a second economic crisis, special measures are absolutely necessary. The government must scrutinize its own numbers and the central power figures to cut way what needs to be cut away, send off what needs to be sent off, and punish what needs to be punished. The government also must make its decision concerning the ousting of the prosecutor general and his deputy.

Strike at the roots! Only then will public sentiment shift and give more attentive ear to the government and the ruling party`s plans.