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Still Transitioning to a New Government?

Posted May. 10, 2008 03:01,   


75 days have passed since the start of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The administration came into power with 5.31 million votes, the largest margin in the history of presidential elections. And the last time one party won as many seats as it did in the April 9 general elections was in 1987 when Korea first democratized.

But many, in and out of political circles, point out that the Lee administration remains in transition, yet to complete the shift in power.

When compared with politically and socially similar administrations in 1988 and 1998, no administration has been as powerless as the current one is.

The Roh Tae-woo administration took office in 1988 under the slogan of “peaceful government change.” But unlike the recent general election, the Roh government held a general election four months after its inauguration, only to be a minority government. Moreover, driven by a trend in society to break from its military past, the Roh administration suffered internal conflicts within its ruling party due to the uncomfortable relationship with former President Chun Doo-hwan.

In 1998, the Kim Dae-jung administration turned the government “horizontally” for the first time since the founding of Korea. Despite the inherent limits of the DJP (Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil) coalition government and the lack of human resources, the Kim administration was able to sustain support thanks to a national consensus to overcome a financial crisis.

It is said that May 2008 of the Lee administration, which changed a decade of liberal rule, seems to have all the unpleasant elements of the 1988 and 1998 periods.

A high-ranking ruling party member said, ”President Lee’s role as the ‘economy president,’ the biggest reason for his election victory, is now facing difficult external challenges, such as soaring oil and grain prices, unstable foreign exchange markets and interest rates. On the political front, the ruling party will have a minority of 111 seats until June when the 18th National Assembly begins its session. So, there are serious stumbling blocks ahead for corporate deregulation and ratification of the KORUS FTA.”

In particular, with the spread of the ‘Mad Cow Disease Scare’ via the Internet and some media outlets that oppose U.S. beef imports, this phenomena is likely to escalate protests against the Lee administration and the United States.

Regarding the hostile socio-political environment in and outside of the party, the ruling Grand National Party said, “We won the general election but the change of power was only in the presidency. The shift in power does not seem to have taken place within the rest of the government.” Now, we will examine the administration’s transitional status 75 days after its inauguration.