[EDITORIALS]Lame Ducks and Confused Policy

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[EDITORIALS]Lame Ducks and Confused Policy

President Kim Dae-jung may find it difficult to postpone government reforms any longer. The public chastised the government for its slipshod measures, hurried assessments and immature policy decisions that were manifested during the downgrading of our aviation safety rating and the fiasco at the Liberation Day celebrations in Pyongyang. Now things are falling apart within the ruling party. Chairman Kim Joong-kwon of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party in effect refused to attend a party meeting on the pretext of a feigned illness, openly exposing the chaos in government management.

A closer look at the new incident shows a power struggle between the Blue House and the ruling party over Mr. Kim's running in the Guro district in a by-election. But our interest is not so much in that aspect of the strife, but in the fact that Chairman Kim made some proposals to President Kim last week aimed at regaining public confidence through government reform. His resignation as party chairman was included in the proposal. The ruling party and the Blue House have shown serious differences in their understanding of the degree of public estrangement with the government and in their approach and solution to the problems of government reform. A good example is the retraction of the call for the resignation of Unification Minister Lim Dong-won. The party withdrew its call and said it was a private view expressed by a few party leaders.

Some MDP officials and persons close to its chairman complain that Blue House officials failed to tell the president frankly about public discontent with his performance. The party is also suffering a decline in morale because the supplementary budget proposal was not adopted due to the absence of party representatives. The MDP-ULD coalition is also showing signs of strain over the question of the unification minister. This ineffectiveness and internal strife is rapidly making the president a lame duck.

Many in the ruling party put the blame for these problems on the president's governing and political style. In late May, junior party lawmakers revolted over the hasty appointment of Justice Minister Ahn Dong-su. The crux of the demands for government reforms they made were a restructuring of the Blue House and giving the government a new look. But instead of starting a reform program then, the president sidestepped reform and responded only by accepting Mr. Ahn's resignation. The same thing happened in connection with the replacement of former Minister of Construction and Transportation Oh Jang-seop, which was criticized as a simple political deal between the MDP and ULD. As a result, the "reforms" were just short-term stopgap measures and the president was further criticized for choosing patchwork repairs over true reform. Then his Liberation Day speech was hit for being out of touch with public sentiment.

To break out of this confusion, President Kim will have to work hard at government reform. He should come up with measures to reorganize the government and the ruling party leadership. The trilateral relationship among the Blue House, the cabinet and the ruling party, which form the backbone of government management, is in disarray. How can the government possibly overcome our economic setbacks and keep the public's confidence if there is no teamwork among them? The shadow of a lame duck infiltrates those cracks. On the same theme, the demand to replace Mr. Lim should be handled as a part of a larger framework of remodeling the government, no longer depending on a single person for a channel of communication with North Korea.
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