[EDITORIALS]Fiddling While the Nation BurnsThe government is in disarray. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rated Korea's aviation safety as less than satisfactory, some members of the South Korean delegation in Pyongyang for Liberation Day celebrations disobeyed the rules guiding their participation and government policies in general are either nonexistent, in a shambles or drifting. Koreans feel uneasy as they watch the government stagger about.
If the government loses its balance, the ruling party should at least provide a stabilizing force. But the Millennium Democratic Party is simply helpless. The meeting between the ruling and opposition party heads that the president proposed with difficulty is on the verge of being scrapped because of slanderous remarks made by a member of ruling party leadership. Representative Ahn Dong-seon said he would resign because of his remarks but his resignation was later rejected by the party, epitomizing inter-party discord. Does the ruling party have the ability and will to run the country?
The aviation safety downgrading is a serious blow that will cause billions of won of losses and a plunge in Korea's international credibility. The government's dismissal of warnings sounded a year ago and its inability to react to the problem add to public despondency. Experts say the downgrading could have been avoided if the government had acted on International Civil Aviation Organization recommendations and the issues raised by the U.S. FAA in its preliminary appraisal. The government had in effect knowingly left its hands idle in the face of an imminent disaster. It is disappointing and amazing. Has the bureaucratic inertia that characterizes the end of an administration taken hold already? If so, we must take appropriate action. Critics say the Ministry of Construction and Transportation's inaction stems from the minister's lack of professional expertise. Power-sharing personnel appointments have also been criticized in the past.
The revolt of some of the delegation in North Korea demands a cool-headed response. The government initially banned the visit but sanctioned it at the last minute. Seoul may have overlooked an obvious problem because it was too obsessed with Kim Jong-il's Seoul visit.
The government's optimistic North Korea policy has led, astonishingly, to the claim by some persons here that a North Korean-proposed federation is not a problem. How does the government plan to deal with discord in public perceptions toward the North? The government should quickly regain its balance. It should push reforms quickly, reinstate discipline, censure the ministers who generated discord and showed a lack of ability in dealing with the aviation and North Korea policies, clean out ruling party and government deadwood, regain control over the disorderly government and resolve the antagonism between the ruling and opposition parties.
The pros and cons of the MDP-ULD Assembly coalition should be reassessed. The merger of two parties whose ideologies are different could hamper the government's reform efforts and lead people to compete for influence instead of devising competitive policies.
It is now also the time for President Kim Dae-jung to reconsider whether he should be both the president and the head of the ruling party. Political wrangling is based on suspicions by the opposition that the ruling camp is intriguing to keep power in the next presidential election. Overcoming such suspicions is the shortcut to win-win politics between the ruling and opposition parties and overcoming our crises.