[EDITORIALS]One year to go

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[EDITORIALS]One year to go

President Kim Dae-jung's term in office comes to an end in exactly one year. Although one year is not a short period, the loss of power within this administration is in such a sorry state that the term "lame duck" means little. As we can see, criticism of this government's authority has reached a serious level.

The achievements Mr. Kim had in leading the country to overcome the financial crisis and in saving the country from bankruptcy should be highly praised. There is room for debate, but Mr. Kim helped bring a 2.8-percent growth to our economy last year, amid a global economic depression. Mr. Kim assisted Korea in becoming a leader in the information technology industry. The president also lay the groundwork for easing tensions on the Korea Peninsula through the inter-Korean summit. After the George W. Bush administration came into office in the United States, problems developed in inter-Korean relations and in Seoul's diplomatic ties to Washington, Tokyo, Beijing and Russia, tarnishing Mr. Kim's Nobel Peace Prize. Still, it is noteworthy that Mr. Kim's achievements were praised around the world by winning that prestigious award.

Despite his achievements, the Korean people are unwilling to give Mr. Kim high marks. Of the numerous reform policies announced by this government, many of them failed to reach goals, showing no progress. The government either came up with inappropriate policies from the beginning or failed to win public support, often resulting in deplorable outcomes.

In addition to the wrongful and unsatisfactory support of Mr. Kim's aides in implementing reform policies, Mr. Kim's arrogance and self-righteousness were also big problems. Despite Mr. Kim's repeated emphasis on reforming education and medical services, his policies were criticized for changes that made things worse. People suffered from higher financial burdens and the quality of education and medical services declined. Most of all, the finances of the national health insurance program suffered increased losses. The outcome of reform policies in public enterprises and the financial industry are far too inadequate to meet our expectations. Spending bailout funds to complete a restructuring of our economy was an unavoidable choice, but reckless management of money heightened the financial burdens already shouldered by citizens. Because of careless management of the bailout funds, companies handling the money were fiercely criticized for being spendthrift. The government's policy of supporting the North was criticized for its lack of principle, and the public said tax-raised money was wasted with no fruitful return from the North. Criticism of the North Korea policy deepened ideological conflicts in our society.

This administration's determination to correct the past administrations' personnel appointments in the officialdom fueled the confrontation between Jeolla and Gyeongsang regions; the condition has worsened to the point of no return. This government's choices of officials left only small room for Mr. Kim's political moves. During the past four years, any minister in this administration lasted an average of only 12 months, the shortest term among ministers in all past administrations.

Mr. Kim recently said he will not begin any large, new projects during the remainder of his time in office. Mr. Kim seemed determined to control avarice in completing the remaining agenda through an unreasonable process; we feel relieved to hear that. Mr. Kim's task ahead in his last year as president is to build public confidence in this administration's policies, especially for economic development, education and medical services. The "sunshine" policy of engaging the North should be discussed among government officials openly in order to win support from the people.

The government must negotiate with the opposition party in order to successfully complete major reforms - financial and public sector reforms, in particular - through cooperation. The local and presidential elections are another important task; managing the elections fairly will bring political stability and an honorable retirement to Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim succeeds in all those missions, he can expect a new and surely better evaluation from history, replacing the current array of public criticism.
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