[INSIGHT]Descending Fog, Hamstrung Leaders

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[INSIGHT]Descending Fog, Hamstrung Leaders

The political situation was thrown into disarray during the last two weeks. The opposition party has made charge after charge; sometimes they come too quickly to understand the complicated, intertwined stories.

But we can, I think, arrange the opposition's allegations into two categories. One is suspicions about the president's strategy and tactics for dealing with North Korea, and the other is the series of corruption-related scandals, such as the Lee Yong-ho financial revelations and the Bundang land rezoning question.

The president's eldest son, Kim Hong-il, who is alleged to be connected with one of the scandals, was reported to have spent his vacation at Jeju together with some figures allegedly related to organized crime.

In other words, the father is being accused of being pro-North Korea and pro-communist, and the son is suspected of having sinister connections with organized crime rings. If some of the corruption-related charges turn out to be true, it would be hard for Koreans to hold their heads high. Though the younger Mr. Kim tried to clear up some of the suspicions, his close allies are still suspected of exercising influence by borrowing Mr. Kim's name like a fox in a tiger's skin.

But despite those scandals, the bigger problem is the suspicions over the handling of North Korea policy. For the future of the nation, the suspicion of President Kim should be dispelled.

I am a critical supporter of the sunshine policy. I believe that a policy based on reconciliation, exchange and cooperation with the North should be kept in place by the next government. But I have criticized the agreement on a loose confederation of the two Koreas in last year's joint declaration, the lack of a strategy for dealing with North Korea, policy decisions without public consensus and propaganda that exaggerated the development of the Gaeseong industrial zone and the idea of a "North Korea boom" as economic salvation.

Although I have criticized the president, I have never thought President Kim to be pro-North or pro-communist. Instead, I have tried to strip away the political exaggeration that he is so fond of, and I understand that negotiations with North Korea cannot all be conducted in public.

Slurs used by conservatives are not appropriate as hopes for North-South reconciliation grow. Conservatives should tolerate liberal opinions even if they do not agree with them. But at the slightest provocation, conservatives start a new witch hunt.

The uproar over the "three unification attempts" in Korean history that President Kim mentioned in his Armed Forces Day address is a good example.

In an article, "Is the Government Pro-North Korea or Anti-North Korea?" in the November edition of Sindong-a, a monthly magazine, 32 political scientists came up with the following conclusions.

Putting the Silla kingdom, the Goryeo kingdom and North Korea's "unification attempts" on the same footing was misleading, they said, but added that the opposition parties went too far when they called the president a Red; the government should talk to and negotiate with its enemy, and it is a logical leap to call such North-South dialogue an acknowledgement of the enemy's legitimacy.

The opposition should have said the president's comparison was inappropriate for a political leader even if it could be said to have some academic legitimacy.

Two weeks ago, U.S. President Bush spoke to the American people. The New York Times and the Washington Post, both generally critical of the president and his policies, eulogized the speech. In particular, the Times lauded him as a wartime leader worth following.

Then, what's going on here? With the global economic downturn, we have exhausted our technologies for surviving in the world market. The once-lucrative global semiconductor industry is shrinking, and steel exports are doomed to be blocked by the United States. There is no leader who can guide us in this dark period. There are only brawls in the political arena, accompanied by allegations that our president is a Red and his son is an associate of gangsters.

Think about the last year of President Kim Young-sam's tenure.

While the people were mired in the scandals surrounding Hanbo Steel Co. and Kim Hyun-chul, Kim Yong-sam's son, the foreign exchange and financial crisis descended on us like a fog and assaulted us like guerrillas. I am afraid that such a fog will blanket us again.

Please, don't try to taint others with red paint on this splendid autumn day. Please, reflect on what we have worked for during the past year and think hard about how we can produce good results in the future.


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The writer is the editorial page editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Young-bin

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