[EDITORIALS]Hang it up, Mr. KimComing out of a funk in the wake of a devastating defeat in the June 13 local elections, Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats said, "They say our party has fallen. But just wait two more years and we will be back."
Mr. Kim's words sound less like fighting spirit than an obsession to hang on to the Three Kims era and a refusal to admit that times have changed. He has apparently decided to ignore the public's message at the ballot box.
Mr. Kim's influence, if the election results are anything to go by, has dwindled to almost nothing. The United Liberal Democrats won only the South Chungcheong governorship among three posts in its support base, the central Chungcheong provinces. In voter party support, they fell behind the even smaller Democratic Labor Party. The humiliating defeat reflects the public's desire to graduate from the political-boss era in which the Three Kims reigned.
And the other two Kims are not much better off. President Kim Dae-jung's ability to attract votes in the Jeolla provinces has dropped off considerably; Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Democratic Party, who hoped to ride on former President Kim Young-sam's coattails in Busan and South Gyeongsang province, found that there were not only no coattails -- there was no coat.
The pitiful reality of Kim Jong-pil's position is nobody's fault but his own. Known for his masterful political skills, Mr. Kim tried to find a new role for his party amid the two giants in the April 13, 2000, National Assembly elections. In the process of aligning and breaking his coalition with President Kim Dae-jung's administration, Kim Jong-pil played politics like he would play a violin. The public's decision to essentially ignore the United Liberal Democrats in this year's local elections is a criticism of his political maneuvering. Kim Jong-pil should acknowledge that his style of political trickery and playing with words no longer has any effect on the Korean electorate. The curtains are falling on his era. If he tries to align with this or that party by saying he is the "original conservative," he is going to make himself look more pitiful. He is a veteran and a skilled-enough politician to read the times better than he has. He should play the role of a surviving statesmen in the short democratic history of modern Korea.