[INSIGHT]Political 'Revolt' Must Lead to Reform

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[INSIGHT]Political 'Revolt' Must Lead to Reform

Who gained from the recent internal strife of the Millennium Democratic Party? The assessment can vary depending on the rule you prefer to apply. It seems to me that the politician who attracted the most attention so far is Representative Chung Dong-young, a member of Supreme Council of the Millennium Democratic Party. Even though his relations with the Donggyo-dong faction of Kim Dae-jung loyalists have been soured, his star may be rising among reformers. On the other hand, the Donggyo-dong faction was seriously wounded by the attacks. Representative Kim Min-seok's image as a reformist was tarnished because he tried to defend the Donggyo-dong faction by himself.

What interested me most was Representative Kim's motivation. Considered a leader of the younger lawmakers, he would be expected to be in the vanguard of a reformists' revolt. Instead, he attacked the reformists, leading to some feelings of betrayal among his peers. His position, in short, was that the reformists didn't follow proper procedures before publicly criticizing the leadership, and the trust among members of an organization should be respected. Proper procedure is a prerequisite for democracy, especially in light of our history, when authoritarian leaders short-circuited democratic procedures.

But Mr. Kim is not talking about democratic procedures, but about the party's internal procedures. Mutual trust in a political party is important, but it is also clear what must be sacrificed when trust conflicts with national and social causes. The reformists in the Millennium Democratic Party started by asking the people who championed Ahn Dong-su as justice minister to bear the responsibility for the debacle, but their real complaint was the general discontent with the Kim administration's management of government in general.

Suppose President Kim met the junior representatives. Do you think the real discontent and meaningful propositions could have been discussed? Even after ten days of party turmoil and national news headlines, the leadership still has not found a way to resolve the problems.

Mr. Kim's behavior after the party workshop, where he attacked the reformists, was more perplexing. He accused the reformers of breaking their promise not to release a public statement and asked the party's ethics committee to look into the matter. He is creating a diversion by quibbling over minor details. Some think he may be seeking political support from the Donggyo-dong faction; others speculate he is fighting with Representative Chung for leadership of the younger lawmakers. In either case, he may have made an error in setting his priorities. A candidate for leadership of the junior lawmakers should be able to read the public mood better than he did.

Did the Millennium Democratic Party lose or gain? It gained in that President Kim evaluated the internal strife as a sign of true democracy. The ruling party and government have shown signs of being isolated from the cycle of national sentiment by emphasizing "strong government and a strong ruling party."

There have been many logical lapses and irrational policies in the ruling camp's actions, such as the engineered defection of lawmakers to the United Liberal Democrats, the Honam (Cholla) monopoly on posts with real power, endless placement of party loyalists to posts with perks but no responsibilities, and tax investigations into media companies. But nobody in the ruling camp raised a question about those issues. The recent strife within the ruling party has some meaning in the sense it assured us that members of the ruling party still can say things that they have to say. And the incident makes us expect that something can be done about those problems. Depending on the contents of the political renovation to be prepared by the Blue House, the Millennium Democratic Party could be the biggest beneficiary, or it could be hurt more seriously by making the rupture irreparable.

How did President Kim come out of this furor? Many people in the ruling camp feel sorry for him, thinking he has been damaged most. It is understandable since the eventual target of the reformists is President Kim and the revolt by the reformists can be construed as a symbol of a lame duck phenomenon. President Kim made himself look bad by acknowledging his responsibility for selecting Mr. Ahn for justice minister.

But this mood can change at any time. Han Kwang-ok, the chief of the presidential staff, said, "If mulberry leaves are used by silkworms, they become silk. If they are taken by snakes, they become venom." The recent revolt by the reformers can be a tonic or a poison to President Kim, depending on the reform measures he comes up with.

If politics of power, instead of the political renovation that was promised last fall, is the result of this legislative revolt, it would be a tragedy for the president as well as for the country. I hope that the president can come up with an epoch-making reform plan embroidered in silken thread and a treasure for our nation.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Heo Nam-chin

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