[INSIGHT]Time to Tackle What Ails the Nation

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[INSIGHT]Time to Tackle What Ails the Nation

People are disappointed again by the "unreliability" of the government, as ruling party members are hesitant to go on with the government renovation, although it was pledged by President Kim Dae-jung. It is lamentable to see ruling party members arguing whether this is the right period to continue government renovation, when the nation is afflicted by confusion.

The problem does not lie in whether the renovation should proceed or not, but in which sector and how fast it should proceed. It is difficult to understand why the ruling party does not fully support this process when it says change should continue unabated. What is the difference between renovation and reform? If the politicians do not like the term "government renovation" then let's call it government reform. The government pushes on to continue the renovation of "other sectors," such as teachers, doctors, pharmacists, corporations and newspapers. But the government is putting off "self-renovation" on policy, management methods and personnel management, although it had vowed to launch a program of changes from the end of last year. The government pushing to reform different sectors of the economy loses persuasive power if it suspends self-reform.

There seems to be many people making fun of the current situation in Korea. It is not pleasant to know that the internal affairs of Korea are on the agenda of United States legislators. This kind of incident, which used to happen frequently during the military dictatorship, reoccurs often nowadays.

United States senators sent letters to the government on the recent media tax probes and about the North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop. International press organizations and overseas newspapers make a fuss over Korean issues. There were shameful foreign reports suggesting Korea is an underdeveloped country, unable to meet aviation safety standards and condoning human trafficking. And foreigners point out that corporate restructuring, which has gone on for three years, is only half achieved.

A president who won the Noble Peace Prize can muster only a 20 percent approval rating. Regional conflicts, struggles between the government and newspapers and between newspaper and broadcasting companies continue. Also the opposition and ruling parties and intellectuals are divided and fighting each other. What do foreigners, who remember how Koreans flattered themselves in international society, think about the current situation? What will become of Korea's voice in international society?

I think North Korean hardliners are smiling over our problems. They may strengthen their hardline policies toward the South or misjudge that "It is easy to plot against Korea," on observing the division of the South, estrangement among the public and confusion in the management of government policy. The North-South talks may end if the North Korean hardliners press the view that there is no need to resume dialogue and promote reconciliation. Government renovation, essential to overcoming the confusion and division of the South, is also urgent for promoting North-South talks and the sunshine policy.

Therefore, the ruling party should make a final decision quickly to change this dismal situation. If government renovation is delayed a day, that day is lost. The government and people together will suffer from the loss of time. The ruling party will continue to suffer from low popular support. It will not be able to endure the oppressive situation of division and antagonism.

The party seems to be perplexed at the demands of the personnel renovation, but this process must be undertaken at this point. Many people who have served President Kim Dae-jung for a long time or have known him are seated in important government posts. President Kim must know very well the capacity and wisdom of these people and have made use of their ability to the fullest. It is natural to search for a new face and new team if the current disorder is the result of these people being in these important seats for three years. For the government to hit upon new ideas and create new trends, new faces must be sought on a wider scale, which transcends the narrow personnel pool classified as "our side." In this sense, the selection of the new prime minister should not be in the hands of the United Liberal Democrats but in the free hands of President Kim.

President Kim should appoint the last prime minister during his term, at his will and assign the prime minister to settle the confusion. The United Liberal Democrats should consent to this. It is desirable for President Kim to entrust the authority and responsibility of settling the confusion to the most ambitious person he can find and be determined to launch a "new government for a one and half year term."

Renovating and reforming government management and personnel on the national level and office by office is the last chance to give hope to the people and make North Korea and foreign nations look at each other with astonishment over what we have achieved.


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

by Song Chin-hyok

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