[EDITORIALS]Ending imperial politics

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[EDITORIALS]Ending imperial politics

The ruling Millennium Democratic Party decided to revise its party charter to prohibit the nation's president from serving concurrently as party president. It has been the practice in Korean politics that the nation's chief executive doubled as president of the governing party and outranked the party chairman, its frontline commander. The party president nominates candidates for elections, making or breaking political careers. Such powers produced "imperial chief executives, imperial party presidents." The move can help eliminate some of the authoritarian practices of our political system.

The move is the latest of the Millennium Democratic Party's wobbly efforts at independence in the wake of President Kim Dae-jung's resignation from the party presidency. It is also the product of a compromise among a handful of presidential hopefuls to coexist in a political leadership void. We can identify in these moves an attempt to set up a party system where one faction or leader cannot monopolize the party. The experiment could lead to more political openness.

The party's move is worthy of emulation by other political parties. In the main opposition Grand National Party, some senior party members are tackling an idea which would ban a presidential candidate from holding the party's presidency. But the GNP leader, Lee Hoi-chang, is hesitant about taking a stand. Mr. Lee, in his attacks on the Kim Dae-jung administration, repeatedly said Mr. Kim's "imperial presidency" was linked to his party post. Then why should Mr. Lee hesitate? Is he saying that with President Kim's resignation, the opposition party has nothing more to take issue with? His stance comes across as confusing.

On the issue of separating the party leadership from presidential nominees, Mr. Lee's position is not clear. "That is not the answer to the problems of an imperial president. I will go along with the party on this," he said. But he was right in his earlier remarks - a president holding a party presidency concurrently is an imperial president. Korean politics has demonstrated it. The GNP should discuss this issue actively. The elimination of an imperial presidency should be the primary task in political reform; the public wants a new way of politics, a different kind of politics from that which the "Three Kims" have given the country.

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