[EDITORIALS]Kim Withdraws From the Arena

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[EDITORIALS]Kim Withdraws From the Arena

President Kim Dae-jung has pledged to detach himself from the Millennium Democratic Party's choice of a candidate for next year's presidential election. It is a more concrete testimony of the determination he showed when he resigned from his party's presidency last week to put down the political turmoil that followed recent electoral defeats. It is also a declaration that the controversy over whether the president supports a particular contender is meaningless.

President Kim's recusal deserves credit for solidifying a new political experiment with the ruling party's choice of a candidate. It also indicates that he would spurn dubious hypotheses that he and two other Kims - former President Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil, head of United Liberal Democrats - would join hands to create a new party or that the incumbent president is plotting to transform the political landscape.

Would-be presidential candidates of the Millennium Democratic Party must now enter the race with new ideas and resolutions. They must ditch the obsolete dependence on the president's favor. They must stand independently, with pride and a sense of responsibility as leaders of a new political experiment. They must also sever their connections with the Blue House and make full efforts to win the hearts and reasonable judgments of party members. That is the starting point for courting grassroots electoral support.

Nevertheless, there still is a suspicious turn in the ruling party. Kwon Roh-kap, one of the closest aides to the president, said he would continue his political activities. Thus the suspicion lingers that President Kim may use the so-called "old Donggyo-dong" faction, led by Mr. Kwon, to maneuver the candidate selection race. It is up to Mr. Kwon to decide whether he will continue to participate in politics. Still, his subtle stance contrasts with that of Kim Hong-il, the president's son and a ruling-party lawmaker, who announced that he would go abroad for two months next year.

President Kim's declaration of detachment leaves hanging the question whether the Millennium Democratic Party will cruise down the road. The party must draw up fair and reasonable rules on how and when a candidate will be elected. All party members, including presidential hopefuls, should support the president's idea and push the nation's politics one level up.
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