[EDITORIALS]Reformer or political hack?

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[EDITORIALS]Reformer or political hack?

It was awkward to watch Roh Moo-hyun, the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's presidential nominee, paying a visit to former President Kim Young-sam. During the ruling party primaries, Mr. Roh denounced the 1990 three-way party merger led by Mr. Kim as "having joined in a movement averse to history and democracy," and made that his main platform against Rhee In-je in the primaries. In his bids to be elected a lawmaker in the Busan area, Mr. Roh blasted the former president as "a traitor who sold out Busan's integrity and a politician who lacks knowledge."

But at the meeting, Mr. Roh bowed before Mr. Kim three times at photographers' request. It was a bittersweet, ironic scene that brings home that "in politics there are no lasting friends or foes." By meeting with the old-guard politician, he turned into the antithesis of what he projects. Mr. Roh, reputed for his stand on principles and conviction, is just as vulnerable to scrambling for political gain.

Reinforcing this perception is that Mr. Roh seems to be seeking Mr. Kim's views on what candidates the MDP should field in Busan's local elections this June. That makes us wonder what Mr. Roh really represents. His nomination stemmed from a public expectation of a fresh wave of change in the nation's political system. But leaning on Mr. Kim's preferences in deciding on the ruling party's candidate for Busan's mayor is the opposite of that expectation. If a coalition of liberals means relying on somebody's cane, the reform looks fishy.

It appears that Mr. Roh wants to nominate local candidates in smoke-filled rooms as was done in the "Three Kims" era. Mr. Roh's pitch to create a new coalition of democratic forces across the peninsula deflates into a regionalism-based election strategy straddling the Jeolla and Busan-South Gyeongsang regions.

Such actions on the part of Mr. Roh stem from confidence that, no matter what election strategy he employs, mass support will uphold his presidential bid. He should be careful; voters may interpret his acts as arrogance. Arrogance from a presidential candidate who proposes to rid politics of regionalism yet ride on that regional strategy to victory will be a target of public criticism. It is regrettable that he comes across as a politician walking a political tightrope.
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