[EDITORIALS]Prime Minister Made a Bad DecisionPrime Minister Lee Han-dong has decided to stay on with the Kim Dae-jung administration. His logic is that he is putting people before the party and his obligations as prime minister before his duties as president of the United Liberal Democrats. His decision comes as a let-down, and his argument lacks persuasion. As cabinet chief, the prime minister should take responsibility for the parliament's passage of a no-confidence motion against the Unification Minister over the controversy surrounding the August 15 Liberation Day celebrations in Pyongyang.
Mr. Lee Han-dong's decision to stay on could not be further removed from the desires of the people, who are looking for a new government. Staying on as Prime Minister, Mr. Lee has taken a position that runs counter to proposals made by the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. Millennium Democrats have stressed that the party should take this opportunity to form a new cabinet to show it is able to carry out a turnaround.
The sticking point in the drama concerning the prime minister is the revelation of the political dueling between President Kim Dae-jung and the United Liberal Democrats' honorary president, Kim Jong-pil, both known for their mastery of political maneuvering. Kim Jong-pil was able to win public support by pursuing a middle-of-the-road strategy, pushing for Unification Minister Lim Dong-won's ouster. In turn, President Kim Dae-jung, by retaining Mr. Lee, deals a blow to Kim Jong-pil, preventing him from taking full advantage of the conservative image, which the president wants to retain in Lee.
Mr. Lee's decision to stay on in the Kim Dae-jung administration is not politically correct. His prime ministership is the United Liberal Democrats' share of power, allotted under the political understanding reached by the two parties when they merged. And his appointment to the office was made possible by Kim Jong-pil. Mr. Lee's flip-flop, which contradicts Kim Jong-pil's strong words "that a human being should know when to reject a temptation," clearly reveals a dark side of Korean politics, where political haggling, double-dealing, and back-room deals run rampant. Mr. Lee's decision to stay erodes this administration's clean start. How will the president lead in the next round of things when he is off to a wrong start is our question.