[EDITORIALS]'Politically neutral?'

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[EDITORIALS]'Politically neutral?'

President Kim Dae-jung will resign from the ruling Millennium Democratic Party within 48 hours. Since the past two presidents, Kim Young-sam and Roh Tae-woo, gave up their party memberships, the president's resignation is no surprise. The ruling party argued that his leaving the party would reinforce his political neutrality. We wonder. The president's parting with his party appears as a common-sense move to demonstrate the government's will to remain neutral during the elections, but we sense that the move is based on political calculations.

The ruling party knows that it escaped its last crisis because President Kim was timely in yielding his leadership. The ruling party turned adversity to advantage by holding presidential primaries. The opposition party's offensives against the Blue House had almost no impact, since the president claimed to stand aloof from politics. The ruling party knows how to get out of difficult situations, as a lizard cuts off its tail to evade danger. The president's move this time seems to be based on that knowledge.

Allegations of corruption dog the president's sons, and Kwon Roh-kap, the second most powerful figure of the administration, has been arrested. The president must have determined that he must act to save the situation before public criticism boils over. He must have known that the decision should come before the June local election. Although Roh Moo-hyun, the ruling party's presidential candidate, had not yet pressured Mr. Kim to leave the party, it was also possible that the ruling party might have decided to expel him.

Resignation from his party and a declaration of political neutrality are unavoidable choices for the president and the only available card for Mr. Roh. But we will not tolerate mere lip service to political neutrality. It should be made clear that president's resignation is not a sham. If whispers of conspiracy persist, and if the president continues to hire figures repudiated by the National Assembly, political doubts and conflicts will grow. If political maneuvering and slush funds continue behind the scenes, no one will believe in a neutral cabinet. The president should allow thorough investigations of corruption scandals including the allegations involving his sons and devote himself to national governance. Only thus will the president's political neutrality be accepted by the public.

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