중앙데일리

[VIEWPOINT] Leadership Crisis and Political Reform

Dec 20,2000
The President Should Open His Heart to the Public to Initiate Successful Political Reform
by Kim Dong-sung

Ordinary citizens in Korea are extremely frustrated these days. We finally faced the reality that as President Kim returned to Seoul with the Nobel Peace Prize, people are looking for "drastic political reform" from him rather than celebrating the honor bestowed to him and our nation.

An even more serious problem is that public mistrust is so high that national political reform, even if it goes well, may not fulfill people's expectations.

In other words, the public's mistrust in the government is related to the current situation in which the president is not on the minds of many people. This could be the start of a whole new tragedy; we must begin to analyze the political reform agenda from the question of why the public feels so distant from the president.

When the Kim Dae-jung administration was first launched, democracy and a market economy were the leadership's slogans. The administration also vowed to overcome regional favoritism in order to achieve balanced development in our society. After the inter-Korean summit, the entire nation focused on issues related to the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula and reunification. Using political propaganda and public advertisements, the ruling party tried to justify its politics, and people's expectations skyrocketed. But the situation has changed since then, and the public's expectations on inter-Korean relations are the lowest ever. The argument that the sunshine policy - an embracing policy toward North Korea - has succeeded in changing the North has encountered counter-arguments that the government wasted money and was subservient toward the North.

Moreover, a conflict between progressives and conservatives in our country has already emerged. People fear that an economic crisis is coming and failed attempts at restructuring have triggered chain-reaction strikes in many industrial sectors. Selfishness among special interest groups has reached a dangerous level, and can no longer be kept under control with the logic of "public interest first" or the moral discipline of the community. Under the current conditions in which people's resentment and feelings of being deprived are so high, I can not help worrying that even drastic political reform might not restore public confidence.

Repeating promises to change the government and party leadership and to speed up the schedule of restructuring in the financial, corporate, public and labor sectors can no longer help to regain public trust. What is necessary is for the president to open his heart.

The president should free himself from the political obsession to be the kingmaker of the next president. That is the first step in winning the people's hearts. He should overcome the regional urges which led him to his current situation. Opening his heart to the public, the president can also find an identity based on public trust and confidence in his North Korea policy. A promise to live up to his words can only be valid when he frees his mind. It is the only way to overcome the so-called leadership crisis, which is a major issue in our society.

Currently, the ruling party does not recognize the opposition as its political companion. They only worry about a bloodbath that they think will follow if the Grand National Party gains control of the Blue House.

The police and prosecution courted disaster by their own reckless conducts. People who only concentrated on reading the president's mind triggered the current malpractices in our society. Presidential auhority is degraded because his mind is closed.

If President Kim, even though he won high international honors, is remembered as a failed leader because of failures in domestic affairs, it is not only the president's problem, but a tragedy for the entire nation.

That is why public expectations for upcoming political reform are high, and the issue is more serious than ever. Successful political reform will deter further turmoil in our society.

The writer is a professor of political science at Chung-ang University.


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