[INSIGHT]Having good luck can be a virtue

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[INSIGHT]Having good luck can be a virtue

President Kim Dae-jung has been having some serious bad luck with people. Mr. Kim's acquaintances and aides named in a string of recent scandals have done more damage to him than the opposition party or a critical media. For the four years he has been in power, Mr. Kim has gained more trouble than honor, thanks to the people around him. If the scandals prove anything, it's that Mr. Kim has experienced a serious case of "people hazard," nowhere close to enjoying the "people luck" that is considered to be one of the great fortunes one can have. He has been pushed into a corner by the very people who are closest to him, including a senior Blue House secretary, a nephew of his wife and even his own sons. The trouble is unprecedented in any previous administration.

Mr. Kim's misfortune is especially apparent when compared to how the former president, Kim Young-sam, fared with people. The former president also suffered serious political damage through the conduct of his son and close aides. But each time Kim Young-sam ran into trouble, he come back with sparkling appointments, particularly his choices of Lee Hoi-chang, Lee Soo-sung, Goh Kun and Lee Hong-koo as prime ministers. In contrast, Kim Dae-jung has put three United Liberal Democrats in the post. It would have been a natural choice when the United Liberal Democrats were a coalition partner, but nothing has changed after the breakup of that partnership. Mr. Kim would have surely done otherwise if he had the right person ready.

One of the reasons why Mr. Kim has waited this long to make changes in his cabinet is supposedly because he did not have the right people to select. Once again, this shows the kind of luck he has had with people. The self-proclaimed slogan "The Prepared President" is certainly going to seem a feeble slogan if it is true that he has had trouble finding the right person for the prime minister's job, a person the National Assembly will approve.

Kim Young-sam had among his staff Moon Chong-soo. Mr. Moon would spare his boss no ugly details, delivering news straight to the president's face, making all those within earshot nervous. He was the man who reported, "Sir, there is no alternative but to let your son go to jail." Kim Dae-jung would be hard pressed to find a man like Mr. Moon now. Even in the military regimes of the past there were figures, including Kim Hak-ryeol and Nam Duck-woo, who went into the history books for having stood up for something, providing some integrity to the regime they served.

Who will Kim Dae-jung have? In a crisis like this nation's current one, is there a figure in the administration who can provide any integrity? Mr. Kim's troubles may deepen as the race for the Millennium Democratic Party's candidate for president intensifies. Those who have been busy checking the pulse of the country may now begin to unleash criticism of Mr. Kim's policies and people.

Mr. Kim's "people hazard" cannot mean that all good people have suddenly disappeared from this country. And the people around him who fell in disgrace could not have all been inherently bad when they came to him. The question lies in Mr. Kim himself and in the culture of power that he no doubt had a part in cultivating. If the people were substandard, it was Mr. Kim who hired them, and if the people got involved in a scheme to manipulate power, then it was Mr. Kim who let that scheme happen.

The question then is not about his luck with people but about his sense of judgment and insight concerning the people he brings to work, the leadership he draws from those people and the way he keeps them in line. Climate and culture do have roles in how a person will turn out. How an organization is run will either make a good employee who will work to the fullest of his abilities, or make a criminal who will help no one but himself. Mr. Kim will do well to look within his organization and ponder what it is about its atmosphere that keeps getting his people into trouble.

Mr. Kim is said to be proud of the recent appointment of Lee Myung-jae as the top prosecutor, and reportedly had considered a similar move for the new cabinet. If the recent scandals were the result of giving important jobs to the people he knew well and the people who were close to him, then it may be time to give a chance to people he does not know or to people who have no connections at all with him.

Historically, good people congregate around those who are virtuous. Having luck with people is bound to come to people who have virtue.


The writer is a senior editorlal writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Song Chin-hyok

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