[EDITORIALS]The lessons Rhee leaves us

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[EDITORIALS]The lessons Rhee leaves us

The Millennium Democratic Party presidential hopeful Rhee In-je is no longer a candidate for his party's nomination. The man who had a spectacular beginning in the race with a convincing advantage eventually succumbed to the power of "Roh Moo-hyun fever," the leader so far in the primaries.

Mr. Rhee's exit, just 50 days after his commanding lead, dramatically reflects Korea's tumultuous political environment. His collapse is the result of a failed strategy in which he sat comfortably and gloriously with the lead, not responding effectively to the changes of the time that demanded a new kind of politics. The termination of his run for his party's nomination leaves us with a lesson that, whether it is in politics or business, the inability to ride with the changing tide means a ruthless fall into obsolescence.

Mr. Rhee's decision was surely based on realizing that the odds were against him in major upcoming primary stops in Busan, Gyeonggi and Seoul, and that defeats in those places would sink his political chances.

But Mr. Rhee's decision also means that the conspiracy theory that President Kim Dae-jung was pushing for Mr. Roh's win ?and his allegations about Mr. Roh's father-in-law's questionable ideology failed to turn the tide and work in his favor. Moreover, the strategy failed to convince party members who were working against the opposition candidate Lee Hoi-chang's campaign and popular voters with similar inclinations who participated in the primaries.

Mr. Rhee carries with him from the last presidential election a record of defying party primary results. His exit this time will also be viewed in the public's eye as something far from a dignified concession by an honorable loser.

Mr. Rhee has said he will remain in the party as an ordinary member. The Millennium Democratic Party primaries are in effect over, and Mr. Rhee's exit indicates the party's attempt at a new process is a half-success. The post-primary approach and judgment by the public toward "Roh Moo-hyun fever" will be more cool-headed, and it may very well present a whole new political environment for the ruling party.

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