[EDITORIALS]Kim Loyalists and Kim's Legacy

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[EDITORIALS]Kim Loyalists and Kim's Legacy

"What did we do wrong?"

This was the first response from the Donggyo-dong faction when young lawmakers of the Millennium Democratic Party demanded that Kwon Roh-kap, former member of the supreme council, and Park Jie-won, senior secretary to the president, retire from politics as a way to regain public support for the ruling party after its defeat in the recent by-elections. Faction members retorted, "Something wrong with our struggles to get this country democratized? Did we do something wrong by being imprisoned for our democratization activities? Was it wrong to establish a people's government?"

But that response, led by Mr. Kwon, does not seem to be well-received by the public. We can see only displeasure in their words, not any hint of reflection on why they have become targets for replacement. Neither can we see a hint of self-reproach in their words for being a fatal burden to President Kim's public image and his administration.

The Donggyo-dong faction symbolized President Kim's political path, strewn with many hardships, from the days of the democratization movement to the victory in the 1997 presidential election. The cohesiveness and stubbornness of the faction have been truly exceptional, for obvious reasons. However, their pride was sometimes interpreted as a sense of clannish superiority and they were seen as the embodiment of crony politics. It is well-known that the faction is a ruling elite that heavily influences President Kim's policy and personnel decisions. That is why reformers of the ruling party bluntly said, "Although Mr. Kwon is not an open MDP leader, his influence is still mighty. Nothing can be done without Mr. Kwon or Mr. Park's help." Although members of the faction oppose its dissolution, some say, "Blue House personnel policy is wrong. It is not appropriate to keep a person in the Blue House who intervenes in personnel appointments."

The conflict between reformers and the faction is at a critical stage. It has to be resolved somehow. If it drags on, we cannot expect the government to function properly; Mr. Kim's last year will be one of policy drift.

To sort out the problems, we must consider why some faction members are a millstone around the government's neck. The people's suspicion that every important personnel move is arbitrarily decided by a small group of the ruling elite - anonymous individuals called "K" are mentioned in connection with every politically sensitive scandal - is too widespread to be called merely opposition propaganda. MDP members also criticize the president for giving jobs only to those he trusts and for trusting only them. The president has to clear up suspicions and restore public trust in him.

The Donggyo-dong faction should behave itself. Their conspiracy theory, that reformers are trying to put all the blame on them for the by-election defeat - is not all that persuasive. They should remember that an argument is gaining force that their historical mission was finished when the people's government was established. The fate and responsibility of the Donggyo-dong faction is to find a way for President Kim to escape his critics on all sides. There was a general who sacrificed himself to save his leader, Wang Geon, who later became the first king of the Goryeo Dynasty, from a crisis. The Donggyo-dong faction should think through why that anecdote is being recounted in some quarters of the MDP. President Kim should address his current problems decisively; the times demand that he do something out of character.
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