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[Opinion] Let`s Break the 3 Kims Cartel This Time

Posted August. 24, 2001 08:46,   


There has been much talk about how the three Kims should step down but they are still going strong. Two of them became presidents, as if to mock such talks, and most recently, the last one is using his resources to stay in power.

It is hard to tell whether the so-called `JP Ambition Statement` which the honorary Prime Minister of the Free Democratic Party (Ja Min Ryon), Kim Jong Pil issued through his peculiar new discourse, is a move to find a new strong man, or to stand alone, or even to grope for some kind of solidarity between the three Kims.

As there is news of a scenario where the two Kims will push for JP, we cannot help but be cautious of the last Kim`s final political walk.

The combined political activities over the years of the three Kims, who used their districts as their pawns, have made fair political competition impossible. JP and Young Sam getting in the same boat with the union of three parties gave birth to YS`s administration, and JP`s alliance with Dae Jung made the DJ administration. The three Kims and their confraternity created a cartel politics, and like some small time businesses in the marketplace scheming together for greater leverage, they are trampling down just and fair competition in the political arena.

Everyone has the right to aim for the presidency. It is wrong to exclude particular figures. However, the three Kims` cartel politics is problematic because the negative impact is overwhelming. During Kim Young Sam`s administration, the nation faced the foreign exchange crisis from which it still suffers. Now, in Kim Dae Jung`s administration, we are experiencing the waves created by the pharmacy-clinic separation, medical insurance financial collapse, conflict over North Korean policy, the suppression of the media over tax laws, and an economic stagnation.

After suffering from two Kims, the people can no longer allow the three Kims politics. Furthermore, JP`s ambition for the presidency in a democratic society after his participation in the coup is illogical. It would be the resurrection of authoritarian politics. Yet, the political reality is that he became a member of the three Kim political cartel after democratization. How in the world did our fair politics become this way?

The reason why talks of debunking the three Kims evaporated into thin air has to do with the fact that their cartel could not be broken. No matter how hard the people in the parties try, it is no use. May be it would be possible to make them step down if 50 party members jumped ship and formed an alliance as a counterforce to the three Kims.

Thirty years ago when the two Kims took forty members and campaigned for the presidency under the New Democratic Party, it would have been impossible if Kim Young Sam stood alone. Kim Dae Jung and Lee Chul Seung, however, stepped forward and helped to abolish the political elders cartel.

At present, the three Kims can cooperate and unite at any time. So, if the three Kims cartel is to be destroyed, at least fifty members must transcend party loyalties and unite as a counterforce to the three Kims. If these members cannot go beyond such personal feelings of `I am better than that person` and refuse to come together, they will not escape the three Kims political cartel.

Yet, numbers alone will not do. Only if the political structure, which helps to form and maintain the three Kims cartel, changes, will the next victor be someone other than the three Kims.

In other words, if the very political framework does not change, a leader cut from the same mold as the three Kims will once again emerge, even if the three Kims disappeared. Leadership meetings, favoritism in nominating members, struggles behind the door, party consultation committee, outside influence on party office, private money lending from the National Treasury supplementary fund within the party – these form the backbone of the political structure that upholds the three Kims cartel. Almost all of them originated during the authoritarian era and continue to function today.

The first priority in eliminating such customs is party reform. The present party organization is fundamentally wage labor who serves the needs of ministers and party chief, and must be cleaned up. Especially, the thinking that the party member is the fundamental element of the party must change and focus on the supporter as the fundamental element. In a democratic society, even if party members are small in number, they can still gain power if their supporters are many. Ultimately, a new leader can emerge and make the changes in the party framework that can put an end to cartel politics.

Kim Yong Ho (Professor of Political Science, Hanrim University, Donga Ilbo Guest Contributing Writer)