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[EDITORIALS]Kwon's Comeback and Cronyism

Mar 29,2001
Kwon Roh-kap, a senior member of the Millennium Democratic Party, resigned from the party's Supreme Council in December, pushed by the argument of Representative Chung Dong-young, another member of the Supreme Council, that he should move to the background. On Wednesday, Mr. Kwon opened an office in Seoul and officially announced his intention to make a political comeback. His reemergence would have been impossible without the approval of the party head, President Kim Dae-jung. Mr. Kwon is called the eldest brother in Mr. Kim's circle of confidants from his opposition days, and his comeback invites concern that political activities by the president's confidants, a chronic ill of Korean politics, is raising its ugly head again.

Judging from Mr. Kwon's remarks at his office's opening ceremony, such concern seems to be more than groundless apprehension. He demanded a public apology from Representative Chung for having attacked him. A member of President Kim's old-time circle in the audience reportedly raised his voice, saying, "We liked Representative Chung so much, but look how he betrayed us." MDP chief policymaker Lee Hae-chan added, "Representative Chung should apologize to Mr. Kwon, who has dedicated his life to democratization." Thus, the "old mainstream" of the party struck a united front.

It is understandable that old-timers feel betrayed by Mr. Chung. But bringing up a private grudge openly is an act of arrogance. When Mr. Kwon withdrew in December, the nation was reeling from a string of corruption cases and there was a consensus that political governance should be revamped. Mr. Kwon's retreat symbolized the end of politics by the president's confidants. Only three months have passed, and now he has made a noisy comeback and is seeking retribution on Representative Chung. Was the action in December just a ruse to placate public opinion? The regime complained about resistance from vested interests and difficulties as a minority party whenever reform policy was thwarted. Yet it has not made any effort to extend its support base, but simply returned to the politics of confidants at every difficult turn. If things continue this way, when will democratic politics develop?


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