[FOUNTAIN]Half the Pack Just the Beginning

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[FOUNTAIN]Half the Pack Just the Beginning

An anecdote goes: A smoker is craving a cigarette. But he has only 1,000 won in his pocket; the cigarettes cost 1,300. So he turns to the person next to him and asks to borrow 300 won. The reply is: "I just happen to have 300 won, and I will give it to you on one condition: I want half the pack (10 cigarettes)."

Our smoker feels he has little choice; he must have a puff right away. So he takes the 300 won and buys a pack of smokes. But he cannot rid himself of the nagging doubt about the deal he accepted.

This anecdote was told by a member of the Millennium Democratic Party, referring to its coalition with the United Liberal Democrats.

But the United Liberal Democrats would have something different to say - for example, "The other guy would not have had any cigarettes at all were it not for the 300 won." In the 1997 presidential election, the Millennium Democratic Party candidate Kim Dae-jung out dueled the Grand National Party's Lee Hoi-chang by 390,557 votes. That figure approximates the total number of votes - 408,319 - Mr. Kim held over Mr. Lee in Taejon and the two Chungchong provinces, the stronghold of the ULD leader, Kim Jong-pil. The United Liberal Democrats no doubt want everyone to remember the math.

The two Kims also had agreed before the election that, in establishing their coalition, to not only split the cabinet between their two parties but also to amend the Constitution before the end of 1999 and move to a parliamentary system. The ULD - which in effect made the deal on the demand that on top of their receiving 10 cigarettes the cigarette packaging would be changed - probably wants to ask what happened.

The ex-construction minister, Oh Jang-seop, joined the cabinet as a representative of the United Liberal Democrats. His successor, Kim Yong-chae, is considered a close associate of Kim Jong-pil. The staff at the construction ministry and its agencies are unhappy to be perennially "stuck" with the United Liberal Democrats' half of the cabinet. They complain that controversy has dogged the agencies whose heads are affiliated with the junior coalition partner. In its partner's defense, the presidential spokesman has said that splitting the cabinet is a cornerstone of the coalition and a practice common in more politically mature governments.

Among those loyal to Kim Jong-pil, there is said to be a movement that does not stop at collecting the 10 cigarettes but advocates something greater for their boss: JP as next president.The Korean people have had Kim Jong-pil around for 40 years. Most of us have a pretty good idea what his sights are set on.

The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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