[EDITORIALS]Pitfalls of political change

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[EDITORIALS]Pitfalls of political change

A proposal put forth by Roh Moo-hyun, the ruling party's presidential candidate, to overhaul the nation's political system, long dominated by regionalism and "boss rule," has considerable appeal. He proposes an end to the present political order based on regionalism and establishing one based on policy and ideology. Heralding it as the task of the times, he contends his plan gets rid of the old guard politics, led by the "Three Kims," and creates a new political culture. This is good rhetoric, but worries and suspicions are being expressed. In the past, politicians have called for political realignment, which resulted in conspiratorial cabals.

Mr. Roh's blueprint for a new political alignment is to create a "grand coalition of new democratic forces." The plan's main goal is to reconcile and integrate the democratic forces that were divided by the 1987 presidential election. But this idea, vulnerable to criticism of anachronism, can divide the nation further. The people of this country do not want another social divide, but a joining of the forces that worked for democracy and the forces that put priority on economic growth over democracy during Korea's lean years. Thus, the vision of a "grand coalition of new democratic forces," could trigger another social division. We would do well to guard against this possibility.

Mr. Roh also calls for a new kind of politics, different from that of the "Three Kims." But he pays homage to these political bosses, possibly with the intent to solicit their influence on their native turf. By wooing President Kim Dae-jung and former President Kim Young-sam he comes across as trying to form an alliance between the Jeolla region and South Gyeongsang province to win more votes. Such a strategy is akin to the one successfully adopted by President Kim Dae-jung for the 1997 presidential election, when he joined Kim Jong-pil, a political boss of the Chungcheong region and leader of the United Liberal Democrats. Such a move would be an extension of rather than an end to regionalism.

Before he embarks on the proposed political realignment, he should clarify his policies and visions for the people and give them a chance to decide if they like what he represents. He should ask like-minded politicians to join him. Implementing political change without this process will doom his efforts as an awkward and artificial battle over turf.
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