A Disappointing Town Meeting

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A Disappointing Town Meeting

Although President Kim Dae-jung talked about a broad range of current issues in his "Dialogue with the People," the televised town hall meeting was disappointing in that he merely brushed the surface of problems. Of course such a meeting is quite different from a press conference, but it is frustrating that through the entire two hours, the president showed no sign of self-examination and failed to give a clear rundown of government administrative matters. The public's disappointment with these town hall meetings is reflected in the TV ratings, which get lower and lower each time one is held.

President Kim spent a considerable portion of the time talking about reviving the economy and coping with unemployment. The parts in which he appealed to the people's sense of resolve and national unity and asked everyone to maintain a can-do attitude were effective, but he was short on specific proposals. Last October the president issued a statement about government responsibility for economic difficulties and vowed to institute administrative reforms. Six months later, however, there is still no sign of such reform, and instead, the politics of "strong government" and "a strong ruling party" has taken center stage. The president owes the people an explanation of why his administration has not followed through with the promised reforms and a convincing presentation of why the politics of strong government is the right course to take, but neither was forthcoming. Nor was anything mentioned about the fact that, three years into its five-year term, this administration has made no progress whatever on the political reform promised when the president took office. There was no unfolding of political vision for bipartisanship or political reform. On the tax audits of news organizations, the president brought up his own record of fighting for democracy and asserted, "It is absolutely not an attempt to tame the media."

We do not oppose justified tax audits, but we cannot shake off the suspicion that this one is connected to the ruling camp's "politics of strength." When someone said he was "worried that the media's ability to function would be diminished by the tax audits," the president answered, "I will see to it that the related authorities do not allow that to happen." Let us hope that those are more than empty words.
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