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[FOUNTAIN]Democracy and Its Discontents

May 20,2001
The statement was, "You believe that Washington will do the right thing," and 77 percent of the people responding to the questionnaire in 1964 agreed. Thirty years later, the number would be 19 percent. The level of trust among the American people in the honesty and integrity of the United States Congress is so low that it is barely higher than the trust in used car salesmen and somewhat lower than that in lawyers.

You do not have to have read a book edited by Joseph Nye, "Why People Don't Trust Government," to know that distrust in government is not a uniquely Korean phenomenon. It is said in the book that politicians in Washington are trying harder than ever to be liked by the people, but the people's distrust has also never been higher. The book also says Washington is skirting the American people, and the people are wary of that.

The recent administrations in Korea advocated a break from the past and vowed to make a new start, but popularity once the term began always headed in one direction - down.

The first chief of staff to President Kim Young-sam, Park Kwan-yong, currently an opposition lawmaker, reminisced last year that it is an occupational hazard of the presidency to be full of confidence and desire to leave a great accomplishment, and it always comes when you have become used to the job.

It is akin to getting a bit too confident, he said, a year after getting your driver's license

Representative Park's successor as chief of staff, Han Seung-soo, the current Foreign Minister, talked about alienation in a book. "Modernization and industrial development were at the center of the administrations of Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo. Then it was democracy and political progress that came to the forefront with the Kim Young-sam administration, and it gave rise to the conflict between those who earlier represented modernization and those who stood for democratic progress. The renewed popular sentiment for the Park administration during the current administration, which is synonymous with democratic movement, could mean that the people are thirsting for the glorious pace of economic growth of the past. The phenomenon will be magnified as long as the administration fails to present a blueprint for economic and industrial development."

The administration's popularity is dwindling, and there is talk of "reform fatigue" even among members of the ruling party. May 16 was the 40th anniversary of the revolution that brought President Park to power, and Friday was the 21st anniversary of the democracy movement of Kwangju at the wake of President Chun's revolution. The interval between the two could be two days or 19 years. It is for the politicians to fill the gap.



by Noh Jae-hyun




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