Hopes for the Kim-Lee Talks

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Hopes for the Kim-Lee Talks

It appears that President Kim Dae-jung and Lee Hoi-chang, president of the Grand National Party, will finally hold their long awaited meeting. To resolve a political stalemate, the Korean political climate requires a gathering of the heads of the ruling party and the opposition. It is not clear how long this dependence on top individuals will go on, but since they are getting together, we hope their meeting will result in practical achievements that will normalize politics and reduce confrontation.
Economic recovery is high on the agenda. Lately the economy is heading in a worrisome direction. The failure to sell some conglomerates overseas, many venture firms'' bankruptcies and soaring oil prices have contributed to the feeling that the Korean economy is sinking. The National Assembly must give the necessary support to a quick conclusion of financial restructuring by quickly deliberating economic reform bills, including the Financial Holding Company Act.
Furthermore, the ruling party and the opposition must reach an understanding about the breadth of inter-Korean policy and its direction. Up to now the Kim administration has pushed its North Korea policy unilaterally, scarcely listening to the opinions of other sectors. This practice has yielded many fruits, but a considerable backlash has developed because the policy has been over-conciliatory and one-sided. The government has turned a blind eye to legitimate procedures in providing food and extending economic support to the North. As a result, antagonism has risen inside and outside the country. Even if it is impossible to adhere to the principle of reciprocity all the time, the heads of the ruling party and the opposition should come to a consensus on the promotion of a peace regime, if nothing else. Additionally, it is necessary to take issue with expedient, unconditional aid to the North by some government offices, such as the National Intelligence Service.
It is also very important for the two leaders to fine-tune their opinions on the handling of suspicions that are wreaking havoc in society. It is far from a trivial matter that the ruling party allegedly attempted to conceal the scope of campaign expenses when it reported those expenses to regulators, or that government officials pressured Hanvit Bank to grant loans. The abuse of government power and the cover-up by powerful figures are grave matters. The government should not view these as mere political offenses or blame them on the opposition? indiscriminate antagonism. We believe it is necessary for the ruling party to assume a flexible attitude toward the introduction of an independent counsel if for no other reason than to recover its credibility.

What is most important is for political leaders to stop and think about their responsibility. It is indisputable that the confrontation between the ruling circles and the opposition, which resulted in an idle National Assembly, has had an adverse impact not only on the economy, but also on public opinion. The confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties has also led to a lack of adequate checks and balances and political rhetoric rather than in-depth discussions, resulting in unilateral handling of important issues such as North Korea policy. The restoration of normalcy in politics does not simply mean the normalization of the National Assembly. It means that economic restructuring and North Korea policy should be filtered through public scrutiny and be subject to checks and balances.
We hope that President Kim and Mr. Lee will stop using such all-too-common rhetoric as ''mutual survival'' or ''stopping of political warfare.'' Rather, we expect them to discuss practical problems and solutions, and then offer realistic measures.

by Lee Soo-keun

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