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[Editorial] Ex-chief presidential aide named to lead MDP

[Editorial] Ex-chief presidential aide named to lead MDP

Posted December. 19, 2000 20:06,   


In a sense, President Kim Dae-Jung's nomination of Kim Joong-Kwon, a member of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's supreme council, to lead the party was an unavoidable choice, in light of the scanty talent pool and Kim's tendency to appoint familiar faces to important positions. With the appointment of Kim, who represents politicians hailing from the Yongnam (southeastern) region, the President may have intended to head off accusations of regionalism and promote inter-regional reconciliation with the ultimate goal of keeping the party in power after the 2002 presidential election.

However, our view is that the appointment of Kim Joong-Kwon as the ruling party chairman is not appropriate at a time when the people are aspiring for overall reform in state affairs and the president is poised to conduct a major reshuffle at the ruling camp.

First, it is doubtful that supreme councilor Kim is the proper person to represent the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). It is generally agreed that, as a leading ¡°old guard¡± member of the former ruling Minjong Party, his outlook is incompatible with the current reform drive. This is the reason why a considerable number of reform-minded members of the MDP are opposed to his party chairmanship, contending that his appointment would hurt the ruling party's legitimacy.

Also questionable is his evaluation of the current economic situation. In a recent radio talk show, the chairman nominee denied that Korea is in a crisis and went on to defend the President by saying that he is well aware of the nation¡¯s plight. When the so-called clothes-for-lobbying scandal broke out, the then chief presidential secretary was suspected of failing to keep the President up to date on the state of public sentiment. In view of his past and present remarks and activities, it is a source of concern that he might have failed to furnish the President with straightforward advice on the popular will. President Kim may well understand now why the people have recently used such phrases as ¡°direct presidential control¡± and ¡°spoils system¡± to describe his administration.

The core of the MDP reform plan is to ensure self-regulation, free from Cheong Wa Dae control. Whenever new party leaders were installed with the titles of acting party president or party chairman, the party announced that the authority of the new party representatives would be strengthened and the party systematically managed. Nonetheless, the top party leaders were no more than ceremonial heads and subsidiaries of the chief executive.

If this practice is repeated in this instance, the much-needed reforms of the ruling party and state affairs will end up being little more than empty words. In view of the nomination process and the identity of the nominee for new MDP chairman, much doubt has been cast over Kim's pledge to stand for non-partisan government and sincere administrative reforms.

It is open to doubt as to whether the new MDP chairman will be able to cast off the yoke of his past experience as presidential secretary and prove himself a viable representative of the ruling party.