[INSIGHT]Ruling Party Has Gone Seriously Astray

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[INSIGHT]Ruling Party Has Gone Seriously Astray

The ruling party seems to be at a loss. The Millennium Democratic Party has failed to find its direction 10 days after its by-elections defeat on Oct. 25. Talks to revamp the government and the ruling party have been overshadowed by the resignation of the 12 Supreme Council members and an overhaul of the party leadership. Whether the Blue House meeting will be boycotted by a few council members has attracted people's attention. The preliminary race for next year's presidential election seems to have begun.

The ruling party does not have the temperament to revamp the government and the party. Talks on sweeping reforms surfaced a while ago but the ruling party is reluctant to commit itself to the cause. When there is demand for reform within the party, there is a request that the "unofficial line of influence" within the MDP should retreat. This time it is requested that Park Jie-won, senior presidential secretary for policy and planning, and Kwon Roh-kap, leader of the Donggyo-dong faction, should resign. This gives the impression that reforms would be completed if these two men are replaced. However, reshuffling personnel is useless if the targeted subjects only switch positions, as was the case in the previous revamping of the government and ruling party leadership. Also useless would be Mr. Park's and Mr. Kwon's resignation from their positions while maintaining their roles in the decision-making process. The essence of the problems is elsewhere. There are many essential things that should be revamped. The ruling party's by-election defeat and the public's alienation from the party resulted from its failure to reform the party completely.

If a prosecutor looks after gangsters, gets his brother a job in a culprit's office, and flatters political power, will the people trust the ruling power? Even if Mr. Kwon and Mr. Park step aside, revamping state affairs would not be complete without drastic reforms of the prosecutors office.

The same applies for the National Tax Service. Contrary to remarks by the former tax commissioner, Ahn Jung-nam, it has been graphically disclosed in a book written by a political reporter of the Hankyoreh newspaper that the Blue House planned the media tax probe. The book reveals comments of senior presidential secretaries that they will fill posts at the National Tax Service with "trustworthy natives of Jeolla provinces" to "beat the hell out of the JoongAng Ilbo and the Segye Times." No conscientious voter would support the ruling party after observing such premeditated tax inquiries into the press companies.

The ruling party admits that cronyism and regionally biased as well as high-handed personnel administration are the main factors that led to the estrangement of the public. Fair management of personnel affairs is essential to clean up the mess. However, talks on this subject have not emerged.

There are scores of issues that demand action more urgently than deciding the fate of Mr. Park and Mr. Kwon or the mass resignation of the MDP Supreme Council. The MDP will lose the presidential election next year if correcting wrongs at the prosecutors office and restoring fair personnel management of the government and the party are not performed.

While such essential questions are being evaded, they are engaged in a power struggle over the demands for Mr. Kwon's and Mr. Park's resignations. Now that the essence of the problem and its roots are known, we should dig into the core of the problem.

President Kim Dae-jung must be perplexed by this whole affair but he should not evade the situation and take resolute action immediately. Mr. Kim should know that the criticism that his "trusted aides" are intervening in personnel affairs and blocking him from hearing the reality is actually targeted at him since he is suspected of letting these things happen. In this situation, it is necessary to judge who was faithful and who committed wrong. If there is someone who ordered the media tax probe, is he a loyal aid? Has the MDP gained or lost by the actions taken by the prosecutors office dubbed the "faithful servant"of power? Is keeping political heavyweights around who are accused of being behind scandals right or wrong? What he decides to do at this point may determine the course of the year he has left before his term of office is over.


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

by Song Chin-hyok

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