[EDITORIALS]Grab a broom, Mr. Kim

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[EDITORIALS]Grab a broom, Mr. Kim

As the bribery scandal involving an indicted businessman, Chin Seung-hyun, is unraveled, a picture of the ugly ways of power brokers is emerging. The picture includes people who struggled in the lower ranks of President Kim Dae-jung's circle when he was a democratic crusader. Some of these people have now turned into power brokers or lobbyists for corporate interests; they are little more than parasites feeding on their connections with those in power. These people, often called "Sergeants Major of Yeouido," are alleged to have engaged in some truly appalling activities. A Millennium Democratic Party official, Choi Taek-gon, has been fingered as a go-between for Mr. Chin and the deputy justice minister, Shin Kwang-ok, allegedly handing over 100 million won($78,000) to Mr. Shin. He is just the latest. There was also a former Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region and Korea Racing Association official, Hwang Yong-bae, who is now in detention for allegedly accepting 250 million won from the business community in return for putting in a word with financial regulators about an impending investigation. The degree of corruption at the periphery of the Kim administration is lamentable.

Apparently, there is an atmosphere in the current administration that allowed poisonous elements to grow. The reason that these questionable figures could transform themselves from anonymous members of the perennial opposition party to power brokers was the shift in the power base itself. As Honam, the Jeolla region, became a power center, business leaders in search of ties with the new elite came to recognize the existence of the "Sergeants Major of Yeouido." Perhaps recognizing the demand for their services, some of these sergeants put themselves forward as agents capable of delivering power and money. In our tradition of lobbying, which has not yet evolved into an honorable profession with recognized ethical rules, it should not be surprising that these people turned out to have dealt with huge amounts of bribes.

That these activities have been tolerated at all shows the administration's incompetence in managing power. The failure to clean up party lieutenants who no doubt had proven their loyalty but had questionable qualifications may be coming back to haunt the administration. It did not handle properly their demand that their loyalty be rewarded with lucrative government posts. That is the kind of "management by emotion" that continues to mar the government today.

There are more than 600 people like Mr. Choi in the ruling party with dubious portfolios, and reportedly hundreds more with some titles at the Peace Foundation, which was established in 1994 by Kim Dae-jung and his followers. Of course, many of those persons are probably just well-meaning followers, advisers and friends of Mr. Kim. But the outrageous allegations surrounding people like Mr. Choi and others affiliated with the Peace Foundation clearly reveal that things have gone awry.

It is time for a thorough housecleaning. The Kim Dae-jung apparatus must comb its ranks to weed out those who took advantage of power they may or may not actually have had and accepted money in the process. It will not be enough for Mr. Kim to have gotten Kim Jong-il to sign a joint declaration or to be on the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners to go down in history as a great president.

President Kim Dae-jung must get his act together and clean up the corruption in and around his administration.
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