[INSIGHT]Three sons, triple the troubles

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[INSIGHT]Three sons, triple the troubles

In March of 1997, the Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice, a civic group, released a videotape on which Park Gyeong-sik, the owner of a men's clinic, had recorded Kim Hyun-chul, the son of then President Kim Young-sam. On the tape, Mr. Kim was seen telephoning someone to inquire about the leak of his discussion with the presidential secretary for political affairs, concerning the nomination of the president of YTN, a cable television news channel.

When this tape was aired on national television, it caused an uproar. Soon after, the civic group disclosed a second tape, called "Mr. Park's public confession."

"Who met with Mr. Kim in the hotel?"/ "I saw a representative coming out of the room whose name starts with K."/ "I heard that all the ministers and vice ministers visited Mr. Kim. Most of them were from the beomminju faction who follow President Kim Young-sam"/ "The secretary to the president, whose name also starts with K, is Mr. Kim's confidante."/"Whenever Mr. Kim called him, he rushed to his side. He invested so much money in Mr. Kim."/ "One day, there were Mr. Kim, assistant minister for planning and coordination at the National Intelligence Service and a guy who I don't know. On the next day, I read in a newspaper that the unknown man was appointed to an important post."/"Did Mr. Kim meddle in the nomination of parliamentary candidate?"/"Yes, he did so deeply. His father is the president. He can do everything. He recommended weak candidates from the ruling New Korea Party to facilitate the election of opposition lawmakers Y and H."

Choi Gyu-seon's tape has pushed the entire country into turmoil. All the people felt disgusted by what was on the recording. Various types of fraud and influence peddling were committed through the backing of the president's third son. The president of Posco was mobilized to dispense business advice to the son and the company bought stock for the third son's business and so on. These kinds of things go beyond the level of what was said on the videotape in 1997.

According to the audio tape, President Kim Dae-jung met one man with an excessively cordial reception, saying "come on, come on, buddy." And the head of the donggyo faction, the main support group of the president, said "come on under my umbrella and I will be your shelter" to the guy who was promoted "to extraordinary political status," thanks to the president. I feel like I am watching a kaleidoscopic view of the power structure inside the Kim Dae-jung administration, even though the tape was exaggerated.

There are similarities and differences between the last government and this administration. One similarity is the main group of close aid, or cronies, grew stronger and both governments called for reform. The two governments came into power from groups controlled by one man after long democratic struggles against military dictatorship. There is nearly no difference between the two. Another common point is that the presidents' sons got power and the members of the main group of close aid were appointed to powerful government posts. That both the followers and the sons privatized state levers and that such deeds invited the collapse of the administration are other commonalities.

One difference is that Kim Young-sam, the former president, has only one son who wielded power, and Kim Dae-jung has three. Kim Young-sam's main cohorts did not splinter in front of the enemy compared with the followers of Kim Dae-jung. Choi Gyu-seon confessed on his tape that Kwon Roh-kap, Kim Hong-gul and the first lady comprised one group and Kim Hong-il, the first son of the president, and Kim Eun-seong and Chung Sung-hong, former intelligence officers, formed a separate entity. It hints at the structural discord in the Kim Dae-jung regime.

I think that the reason for the complicated scandals and suspicions in the present administration is related with the trouble and discord among the president's three sons and followers.

"Power struggles in the Joseon Dynasty was life itself. Losing power meant death from hunger. There was no reason, moral duty or justice in front of starvation. Even through bloody battle, they had to come into power. To win the struggle they organized factions and they fought political battle till the end, mobilizing public sentiment, avoiding responsibilities and hypnotizing themselves for the success," said Hajime Hosoi, a Japanese historian in the 1920s, in his book on our humiliating colonial history.

The government looks like gangsters and their boss. If we don't want to repeat this shameful experience, we have to drive out the evil power structure. We should not be seduced again by cronyism and agitation for reform.


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

by Kwon Young-bin

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