[EDITORIALS]Kim Keun-tae withdraws

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[EDITORIALS]Kim Keun-tae withdraws

Public frustration is building over the governing Millennium Democratic Party's primary elections to select its presidential nominee. Kim Keun-tae, one of the party's seven presidential hopefuls, has dropped out of the race. Shocked by the results of two primaries in which he finished last, he chose to end his presidential bid. He was apparently frustrated by his failure to scale the high walls of political reality, dominated by money, organizing ability and regional antipathies. It seems that his slogan of "clean politics" is dying out even before that cause sees the light of day. Even in the new experiment with primary elections, an effort to democratize the party, the calls for clean politics did not strike a chord.

Mr. Kim's withdrawal showcases the limits of Korean politics. His confession that he took illegal political funds was welcomed by public opinion as penance for clean politics. But it worked to the contrary in the primaries. His confession led to a political scandal involving Kwon Roh-kap, one of the most influential figures in the ruling camp, and Mr. Kim came under fire for damaging the party. He was blasted by election brokers and rival candidates for "pretending that only he is clean." Such absurd ostracism shows that Korean politics is low-class.

"Remember me as a beautiful last," he said as he withdrew from the contest. But the public wanted him to continue, even if he finished last, to keep money politics at bay. Maybe that is too much to ask, but his early dropout may undermine the political courage and determination of his confession.

Mr. Kim's legacy must continue. The MDP primaries, which will continue until April 27, have already been marred by illegal practices; some other candidates were warned by the party election committee for giving money to or wining and dining voters. Other candidates must end controversies involving excessive mobilization of campaign workers, money gifts and negative campaigns. The new method of electronic voting and the unpredictability of the race are not enough to keep the public's eyes on the primaries. Their real meaning will shine through only when a spirit of fair play and reform of "bought" elections is ensured.

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