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[Editorial] President Roh Must Deal With Difficulties

Posted June. 01, 2005 06:51,   


The Roh administration, reaching the midpoint of the president’s five-year term, is facing an overall crisis in national affairs. All presidents have experienced the “third year syndrome” since the adoption of the single-term system in 1987, but it is unprecedented for the national management system to face difficulties so suddenly on all fronts.

The truth of the “S Project,” a development project of the southwestern coastal area, disclosed by Jeong Chan-yong, the former senior presidential secretary for personnel affairs on May 31, clearly shows that the current administration‘s state management was based on connections rather than on “placing priority on the system” like the government has stressed. It seems President Roh called Jeong to the presidential residence and persuaded him to take on the development project though he had declined it, just because he is from the Honam region. This is not the appropriate attitude of someone supposedly running state affairs based on a just system. In particular, if it is true that President Roh persuaded Jeong to stress the irrelevance of the development project and the Haengdam Island development, the matter is directly related to morality issues within the political circle.

The two pillars of national management, the economy and security, seem precarious. The economy and security have never been in danger simultaneously, even under past authoritarian regimes. This fact shows that Korea’s current situation can only be called an “overall crisis.” Devoting all its efforts to the economy, the government is using all the policy means at its disposal, such as early appropriation of two-thirds of the budget, to overcome economic difficulties, but the economy shows no signs of recovery. On the contrary, inflation and land prices are rising, and employment and taxation are increasing, imposing multiple hardships on the people. However until just recently, the government has confidently insisted, “There is no need to worry about the economy.”

The United States is continuously sending warnings saying it “no longer thinks of Korea as an ally.” Regarding the deteriorating North Korean nuclear issue, even China says, “It is difficult to pressure the North because of South Korea’s tolerant attitude toward it.” Even in this situation, politicians of the ruling and opposition parties are haggling over attending the June 15 National Celebration to be held in Pyongyang. Concerns are rising that Korea is becoming internationally isolated as the president leads a hard-line diplomacy effort aimed at Japan.

The ineffectiveness of government power is enough to make one wonder if the government is a legitimate one. The government is helpless in the face of violent protests of so-called “organizations of the same chord as the government,” like the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Hanchongryeon, and the Korea Educational Teachers and Workers Union. Not only major posts of state enterprises, but also university president posts, which the government has influence over, are filled with the “right” people, triggering criticism that “public posts are controlled by the government.”

The ruling party is in chaos. Though it took over the majority of National Assembly seats thanks to the backlash after the impeachment, all it has done in the last year is fight over the four major bills, dig into the past, and engage in controversy over ideology.

We believe the roots of the current crisis stem from the low competence of the current government, the obsession over outdated ideologies, populism in national affairs, and the reckless replacement of mainstream politicians. Such actions have not brought positive results for the people. This, in turn, has led to the vicious cycle of a “confidence crisis.” Amateur politicians who have clinched core positions of power through connections and populist national agendas will not revive the exhausted growth engines of the nation.

President Roh needs to reflect on the past and change his way of thinking. A humble attitude in learning the sacrifice of former generations, respect for their administrative abilities, and their profound wisdom is desperately needed. More than anything, President Roh and the ruling party must realize that the criticism falling upon them does not come from the small number of privileged people. It comes from the poor people who are tired of suffering.

The government must suspend incompetent national management policies and change the paradigm of national management, implementing reforms on all fronts, including political parties, government, and agencies to win back the people’s and their allies’ trust. This is not the time for stop-gap measures. The first step in overcoming the overall difficulty we face is the president’s accurate understanding of the current situation. The people want a “successful president.” Therefore, we hope President Roh will throw away his misguided confidence and arrogance of power, realize the desires of the people, and lead reform, beginning with himself.