Split In Ruling Camp Long Overdue

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Split In Ruling Camp Long Overdue

With calls for Kwon Roh-kap, a member of the Supreme Council of the Millennium Democratic Party, to step down from his position in the party leadership, the ruling camp is showing signs of internal strife. Dissension within the party is apparent as questions are raised about who is behind the move to oust Mr. Kwon and what motives are involved. In a situation that demands reflection, the party members are playing power games, and in the process letting the public down. Far from assuming a leadership role in helping the country overcome its difficulties, the men closest to the president are making matters worse. Their behavior is reason enough to ask them to resign.

The composition of the ruling party, wherein the president''s closest allies from his days in the opposition hold the reins of power, should have overhauled long ago. The essence of the political reform the administration promised the Korean people when it took office, is reform of the party itself.

If the ruling camp was unable to turn itself from a group centered on one individual personality into a party based representing the citizenry, then at the very least it should have built a framework for more democratic processes, but there has been no sign of any attempt to make such changes. Party meetings resemble the meetings of Mr. Kim''s staff in the old days at his Tonggyo-dong home. With these old hands at the helm, the party has retrogressed rather than progressed.

If the ruling party leaders had fulfiled their promise to institute reforms, they would not now be subject to criticism. But the Tonggyo-dong crowd have settled for making a show of their unswerving loyalty to the president, and engaged in consolidating their own power lines while ensconced in the old-style politics of combativeness and confrontation. Whenever the newer generation of politicians raises fresh issues, the old-timers try to gag them.

To the public, the current criticism coming from within the ruling party seems perfectly reasonable, but the party leadership has shown that they are still stuck in their old ways by immediately treating it as a power struggle. In order to lift Korean politics to a level the public expects and respects, the old guard, who are seemingly incapable of breaking away from their outdated political ways, should step down.

In addition to the problem of how the party is to be run, the rumor mill continues to grind away. We will, for the time being, leave out the allegation of scandals involving the Millennium Democratic Party. But we cannot turn a deaf ear to concerns that the party has intervened in the personnel affairs of public utilities.

We see the recent moves and criticism coming from within the party as part of a process of growth and progress for the ruling party and the administration. We can''t shake the feeling that there is still some political sanctuary on which no one dares tread, but we hope that at least the problems that have been laid out so far will be taken to heart and acted upon.

We are not concerned about discord within the Tonggyo-dong factions, for there is no question that their leaders will always be at the side of the president.

All we ask is that the old guard not stand in the way of the president''s reform agenda. Rather than turning the internal criticism into a power struggle, they should resign voluntarily, providing a precedent for preventing political power from becoming personal property. That would be a worthy act to perform in the service of a president they so esteem.
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