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[EDITORIALS]Don't Sweep This Under the Rug

June 02,2001
The outcry over the "43-hour" justice minister, Ahn Dong-su, and subsequent calls from the junior ranks of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party for reform are nearing an end. During a closed-door workshop held Thursday night, ruling party lawmakers appeared to have said everything they ever wanted to say.

They called for shuffling the party leadership and the Blue House aides and getting rid of secret channels for naming government officials. They demanded an overhaul of the way the country is managed and drastically changing the system by which the country is governed. Some lawmakers even questioned the justification for the alliance with the United Liberal Democrats and the Democratic People's Party. There was almost nothing left unsaid. The ball is now in President Kim Dae-jung's court.

There are several things that the ruling party leadership should keep in mind as they ponder ways to resolve the current political crisis. First of all, the workshop last night should not be taken only as a venue for cathartic relief. If the leadership thought the party would now return to normal because all complaints were voiced, subsequent internal feuds will follow. In addition, they should not feel relief and believe that all debates will now take place within an official framework, because the debate over running the country took place at a party workshop. To prevent junior lawmakers from making a fuss outside the party, there needs to be an official route through which their opinions can reach the president anytime. The criticism by some lawmakers that the junior lawmakers did not follow proper procedure in voicing their opinion should not be exaggerated and misinterpreted. The Donggyo-dong faction - the most loyal followers of President Kim Dae-jung - praised an up-and-coming lawmaker's remark that the junior lawmakers' moves "shook the order of the party and the prestige of the party chairman." How can the faction dream of becoming the leaders of the future with such an anachronistic mindset?

Such a way of thinking fails to realize that the workshop would never have taken place were it not for the junior lawmakers' action despite the crushing defeat in the April 26 by-elections and the controversy over Mr. Ahn. The junior lawmakers took the radical move because the official channels at the party and the Blue House were clogged. Preventing the relationship between the party and the Blue House from becoming antagonistic because of the incident is also important. The Blue House aides are already upset that the junior lawmakers called on them to shoulder responsibility. The conflict between the two groups should be prevented because it could seriously disrupt the leadership of President Kim Dae-jung.

The direction that the ruling camp should take is apparent. It needs to think about ways to calm public opinion and forget about the power struggle and personal relationships within the party. The party leadership may be tempted to wrap up the incident by firing officials here and there. But such makeshift measures will only help make things worse allowing a small water hole to grow large enough to demolish the dam. A wrong solution to the incident will only hasten further estrangement from the people and the lame-duck phenomenon for the president. We are concerned that the president's decision not to accept the resignation of party chairman Kim Joong-kwon may be indicative of his resolve to minimize dismissals. To turn a crisis into an opportunity, an acceptable level of officials must be shuffled and the governing system should be overhauled.



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