[EDITORIALS]Kim + Kim = mischief

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[EDITORIALS]Kim + Kim = mischief

President Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats has blasted the Kim Dae-jung administration with a force that made listeners wince. Ever since breaking up the ruling coalition between his party and the Millennium Democratic Party over a no-confidence vote against a minister in the Assembly, he has been on the attack, targeting both the president and Prime Minister Lee Han-dong, who broke with the United Liberal Democrats to keep his job.

But on Tuesday, President Kim and Kim Jong-pil will meet for dinner, their first meeting since the breakup five months ago. Their meeting is a bit of a surprise, given the president's "hands off politics" pledge and the enmity between the two men. But politics is a game for pragmatists. The Blue House spokesman said the meeting is part of the president's attempts to reach out to all leaders of our society to gather opinions about cabinet changes and to set an agenda for the remaining months of his tenure.

The purpose of this meeting is not clear, especially because the Blue House secretaries have broken with precedent to leak the names of the ministers to be changed, the largest faction in the Millennium Democratic Party is calling for a parliamentary form of government and a call for political restructuring is on the rise.

There are some suspicious things happening in our political arena.

What political leaders discuss and what decisions they make are completely up to them, but they should not try to conjure up political strategies that run counter to the national interest and to public opinion so that they can hang on to the reins of power.

It is well-established that both President Kim and Mr. Kim are in a rut. So are their parties, although Kim Jong-pil's United Liberal Democrats are probably in the deeper one. What Mr. Kim wants from the meeting can be gauged a bit from what he said after his coalition with the Millennium Democrats collapsed: "How can they act that way? Because of our coalition with them, what we have left is nothing but a tattered party and dust in our pockets." But he should bear in mind that should he try to alter the political landscape by promoting the change to a parliamentary government, he will run into determined public outrage and resistance.

Now is not the time to pursue a change of government form or to attempt a three-way political merger among the Millennium Democratic Party, the United Liberal Democrats and the Democratic People's Party. Within the Millennium Democratic Party, would-be presidents are attempting innovative political experiments such as the adoption of a nationwide electoral body; and from another corner of the party, members are calling for a change to a parliamentary government. Even granted that Korean politics is on a wayward track or just that it is a living organism liable to change, these are not developments that we need at the moment. A change to a parliamentary government can be discussed after the ruling party decides on its presidential nominee. Before that time, such discussions sound fishy.

Both the president and Mr. Kim should resist the temptation to alter the political landscape through such "change the government" grandstanding. If they do agree to try it, that would be only a compromise reached by a cornered president and a failed political boss.

Our assumption is that behind the decision to meet is a desire to bury the hatchet and join hands to create a new political party. That is only an assumption, but even if they see such a move as a measure of last resort for the purpose of combining two parties for political gain, they should have a justification that appeals to the public.
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