[INSIGHT]Time For Fresh Ideas and Fresh Politics

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[INSIGHT]Time For Fresh Ideas and Fresh Politics

President Kim Dae-jung has resigned as head of his political party after a legislative election defeat. For this political development to serve as a bridgehead for improving the political situation of Korea, two pending issues must be resolved.

One is an overhaul of the current political system that has the fingerprints of the three Kims all over it. The other is to find new faces to fill the gap in political leadership - leaders with new ideas and the capacity to govern effectively.

The greatest benefit from President Kim's resignation is that it marks the end of the "three Kims era." Kim Jong-pil, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae Jung influenced Korean politics for over 30 years. Kim Jong-pil, chairman of the United Liberal Democrats, and former President Kim Young-sam could hang on by their fingernails to their out-of-season political aspirations by pointing out that President Kim was still exerting substantial influence in the Millennium Democratic Party. The other Kims will find it hard to justify their political meddling now that the president has stepped back from active political party leadership. The president has dropped his pursuit for continued political power; how can the other two continue to pursue it? The people will not tolerate any more intervention by the two Kims under these conditions.

Korea has endured the reign of "old" politicians - former President Kim Young-sam and President Kim Dae-jung - long enough. To charges that he was too old to serve as president, Kim Dae-jung once retorted that a person's age is not determined by the calendar, but by how fresh and innovative his thoughts are. His assertion is correct, but taking into account the "achievements" of the last nine years when two of the Kims served as president, for an individual to overcome his physical limitations and age is easier said than done.

It was ill-fated for Korea to have two presidents in a row who are in their 70s, especially at this point when the world is changing so quickly.

President Kim may aid Korean politics by stepping down and taking the other Kims with him. To open the way for the new politics, nothing else is required. The president only has to keep his word that he will not intervene in the ruling party's affairs, and then the influence of the other Kims will dwindle automatically.

It is foolish to expect that the three Kims would resolve to step down from their position by themselves. The next generation of political leaders should provide no room for them to revive their ambitions. The new crop of political leaders is disappointing; they resemble packs of lions and hyenas fighting for a limited supply of food.

We welcome the end of the era of the three Kims since it will provide opportunity for Korean politics to cast off regionalism and curb the influence of a single political leader.

But the current political situation is disappointing. The politicians who vow to fill the empty places of the three Kims have not thrown away the ills of the existing system.

Despite the people's expectations when the Millennium Democratic Party came into power, regionalism has become more acute over the past four years. If next year's presidential election is to be centered around candidates who have support based on where they are from, the aftereffects will be more serious than any we have ever known.

The person who presents himself to take responsibility for the future of Korean society should at least attempt to overcome regionalism. Making efforts to curb regionalism is the most essential task.

Right now there is no person who has the charisma to secure the leadership of their home areas the way the three Kims did. Therefore, it would be beneficial for aspiring politicians to compete with each other by presenting new visions of the future and state management in their presidential election campaigns.

There are plenty of human resources in political circles. The problem is that everyone wants to be the star player. They should keep in mind that there must be supporting roles and cameramen to produce a movie.

Politicians should compete with each other by representing different classes and policies. I want to see a situation in the ruling and opposition parties in which the MDP represents the progressives and the Grand National Party speaks for the conservatives.

Although half a century has passed since the establishment of the republic, Koreans have never experienced "real" party politics and election campaigns based on different policies.

The next-generation politicians should open a new age of politics by settling matters from a broader point of view.


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

by Yu Seung-sam

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