[FOUNTAIN]Spot the Difference

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[FOUNTAIN]Spot the Difference

Korea, which has a presidential system, and Germany, which has a parliamentary system, surprisingly have many political things in common.

In both countries, a center-left party came into power after years in opposition. The current ruling party in Korea, the Millennium Democratic Party, was first elected in the 1997 presidential election. One year later in 1998, Germany's Social Democratic Party ended the Christian Democratic Union's 16-year reign. Both countries also share a three-party system. Actually, in Germany there are six parties that have at least one active congressman or congresswoman in parliament, but the six parties can be roughly classified in three groupings in terms of ideology and policy line. On the left are the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Party of Democratic Socialism; on the conservative right are the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, and on the center right is the Free Democratic Party.

Germany's FDP is similar to the Korea's United Liberal Democrats. The fact that these two parties often have the decisive vote despite being only the third largest party is also similar. The long-time chiefs of the two parties, Kim Jong-pil, honorary president of the ULD, and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former foreign minister, have also walked similar political paths.

Like Mr. Kim, who has been for a long time the second most powerful politician in Korea and is always in the spotlight, Mr. Genscher was the number two man for 23 years beginning in 1969.

Mr. Kim is 75 and Mr. Genscher is 74.

However, there is one huge difference between Mr. Kim and Mr. Genscher. Mr. Genscher, who contributed greatly to the reunification of Germany, pulled out of politics in 1992 when he resigned as foreign minister, to the grief of many. With unification, Mr. Genscher had concluded that his political role was finished. But Kim Jong-pil's political ambitions are boundless. Recently it is said he is aiming again at the presidency. Despite this, he recently said he was "middle-of-the-road." Chinese philosopher Chu Tzu described the middle of the road as "not tilting to either side of the space and handling things in righteous and consistent manner," - in other words, moderate.

An elegant expression like "middle-of-the-road" doesn't suit Mr. Kim, who has been walking on a tightrope between the ruling and opposition parties. Instead, Aesop's fable of the bat would be a better fit. The bat, neither a bird nor wild animal, succeeded in profiting from the fights between birds and wild animals, but in the end was abandoned by both.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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