The Choice Is Reform or Regionalism

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The Choice Is Reform or Regionalism

We Will Never Escape From Political Chaos Without the President''s Firm Determination.

Members of the Millennium Democratic Party are currently involved in infighting over whether the core members of the "Donggyo-dong" faction should surrender party leadership. Party members are divided into backers and critics of Supreme Council member Kwon Roh-kap, and the infighting between Mr. Kwon and Hahn Hwa-kap, another leading party member, has intensified.

Although some see the recent events as a simple power squabble among party members, the situation is not that simple. The political chaos in the party is a result of its all-embracing ideological nature. The multiple political personalities of Kim Dae-jung are also a cause of the recent crisis.

Members of the MDP openly make insinuations against Suh Young-hoon, the chairman of their party, calling him a "shadow." Mr. Suh, however, believes that he was responsible for the party''s successes in the presidential and general elections. Other MDP members who joined the party later as pro-democracy fighters believe that they deserve important roles in the party as well. For them, the center of the MDP is not the Donggyo-dong faction but the so-called "Kim Dae-jung line" which they have long supported.

Then a new problem arose: This "Kim Dae-jung line," which was formed of politicians of all ideologies who resisted the military dictatorship before finally taking power, is now the core reason for conflict inside the party.

The Donggyo-dong faction members and some other older MDP members are devoted political servants wishing success to politician Kim Dae-jung. For them, ideology is not an important issue. The rest of the party members, so-called pro-democracy activists, put ideology above all. Members of this group have widely differing characteristics. Some are simply against military dictatorship while others are progressives and some are true radicals. Moreover, the fundamental political tenet of the group supporting Mr. Kim is strong local - Cholla - favoritism. This sentiment puts a political burden on Mr. Kim to assuage all the grudges held by people from the Cholla region. Mr. Kim''s versatility propelled him to the presidency, but the people who supported him for only one facet of his versatility become embittered as his versatility blurs his identity.

The conflict inside the MDP is the collision between those miscellaneous constituencies. It is the principal cause of the policy confusion which the regime has exhibited until now. The progressive faction in the MDP insists on radical and drastic reform, but the Donggyo-dong faction wants to right old wrongs, take care of their long-time followers and give the Cholla region the political patronage it was denied for so long. That is why the MDP raises its voice to achieve reform on one hand while using reform as a privilege on the other hand. That is why the party promises fairness on the surface, while carrying out discriminatory government personnel changes beneath.

Therefore, for the president to lead the way to drastic changes in political conditions in our country is not a simple decision of whether the Donggyo-dong faction should step down or not. It is a complicated and important matter of how to reorganize the ruling power group, how to lead this country and in what direction.

The non-mainstream, progressive reform line pursued by Mr. Kim has already been compensated with a Nobel Peace Prize. If Mr. Kim contemplates the reasons for the current domestic political chaos, he can indeed come up with a solution. Even if the Donggyo-dong faction is hurt and Cholla regionalists are frustrated, he must start with measures to prevent any further corruption and correct the practice of regional favoritism in government appointments, even if he cannot abandon them entirely. If he continues to try to accommodate the varied demands of all the factions clamoring for his attention as he has done until now, we will never make our way out of the current political morass.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-bae

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