[EDITORIALS]People First, Politics LaterPresident Kim Dae-jung demanded at a weekly meeting with the ruling party leadership that politicians should get more direct feedback from the people about the difficulties they are facing. His words are an indirect reproach to presidential hopefuls in the 2002 presidential election, who are already on the campaign trail.
Public criticism is growing stinging toward presidential hopefuls who ignore the nation's economic problems while thinking only of their ambitions. There are about 10 presidential hopefuls from all parties who are touring the country presumably to make lecture tours and see first hand the real situation people are facing. But almost all of them have opened large offices as a foothold for the preparation of presidential bids, and some have held ostentatious events to display their power under the pretext of forming association of supporters and establishing foundations. Politicians should dream big and compete with each other, but Korean society is facing grim realities that verge on becoming major crises. This is the time to overcome the crisis by pooling our strength and wisdom, not squandering national energy by stirring up election fever too early. President Kim still has 20 months left in office.
There are also concerns about some politicians who are trying to arouse political circles with cries for revision of the constitution and who are devoted to inciting regionalism. In view of the current structure of the National Assembly, constitutional revision is unrealistic. Such talk can only be seen as an individual political maneuver. Chatter that presidential candidates should hail from the Kyongsang provinces and that candidates for president and vice president should be from different regions are dangerous concepts, involving the use of regionalism to win the next election. It is indecent for politicians to hail the three Kims as "kingmakers," when the three Kims are the symbols of the ills of outdated politics.
If one considers oneself worthy of becoming the next president, he should be eager to sacrifice to resolve the crisis of government management. And he should prepare himself thoroughly by listening to the people. The presidential hopefuls should take heed of the demand of President Kim.