[FORUM]For the President, It's 3 in the AfternoonKo Eun, a well-known contemporary poet wrote, "Three p.m. is either too early or too late to start something." I can recall the times when each day went by pointlessly, while I was undecided whether to do one thing or the other.
But days pass so speedily. We cannot wait for the next presidential election as pointlessly as in the slow-moving days. We have so many things to do that whether it is early or late is not important. The Korean economy is in a difficult situation and social conflicts are serious. President Kim Dae-jung's resignation as president of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party will be evaluated depending on the measures that will follow his resignation.
With indications that the president will shuffle his cabinet at the end of the year, there are predictions of a so-called neutral cabinet or pan-national cabinet. There is a theory supporting the idea of a pan-national cabinet in which qualified people from both the ruling and opposition parties participate. There is also a theory which, reflecting the political reality, supports a neutral cabinet that is chosen by experts who do not belong to political parties because the opposition is reluctant to accept the idea of a "pan-national cabinet." What is important is putting together a cabinet that can work well for this country. Toward that point, there are a few things to be considered.
First of all, even though Mr. Kim wants to reshuffle the cabinet, I wonder how many people want to be a cabinet member under this regime. Surely, there will be some people who would offer thanks for the "enormous royal blessings," if he were to be named a minister. But among those who have abilities to do work well for the country, there will be few people interested in a cabinet post during the one year left for this regime. They saw what happened to Kang Kyong-shik and Kim In-ho, who were appointed as deputy economic minister and senior secretary to the president for economic affairs at the end of Kim Young-sam's presidency. The current regime made a "big mistake" taking them to court. If men of ability are reluctant to do work for the current administration, it is falling in a trap set by itself. Under present circumstances, a real pan-national cabinet is the answer. If President Kim invites people with his heart and sincerity, they would find it difficult to resist his entreaties. For them to work according to their convictions, however, it is necessary to let them work in a pan-national cabinet. Needless to say, President Kim should work both with the ruling and opposition parties on national affairs.
The Grand National Party is now actively supporting the revision of the real name financial transaction law and the tax law. The party promotes such policies as protecting bank account secrecy and banning abuse of tax investigations among other legislative initiatives. Even if the government and the ruling party object to the GNP's move, the opposition parties can overwhelm the ruling camp in the assembly.
If it is a real pan-national cabinet, the party affiliation of its members is not that important. What is important is selecting the right people regardless of their regional and school ties and age. As an example, there are many experts who left government and have accumulated precious experience working in private sector. They are important people whom this nation can use some day. It is time that we establish a system where men of ability migrate between the private sector and government.
The opposition party should participate in the pan-national cabinet. The opposition may calculate the participation as helping the ruling party. But people can discern ideas of the ruling party from that of the opposition. If good ideas are put into practice and are highly evaluated before the election, it may be good for the opposition, too. If the ruling and opposition parties and government work together closely, for example, they can deal successfully with the reorganization of the government. If they agree, the new government can start working immediately without spending valuable time retooling the government. There will be criticism that a pan-national cabinet is merely an ideal. But it should be remembered that three p.m. for a regime or history is an urgent time. We should start now.
The writer is a chief economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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