[INSIGHT]What do you say, Mr. President?President Kim Dae-jung remains silent. The peace foundation that he established and his second son operates is in dire straits; all his three sons are under suspicions of one sort or other and yet the president is keeping silent. He had nothing to say when an old aide who earned the appellation "the butler of Donggyo-dong" and became an executive of the President Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation, Lee Soo-dong, was arrested on charges of accepting bribes from Lee Yong-ho.
Now there are new rumors of illegal Millennium Democratic Party funds being managed by another Donggyo-dong stalwart, "the eternal chief of staff" Kwon Roh-kap. President Kim apologized once to the public for an incident when his wife's nephew and his senior economic adviser were arrested, but said consistently that his peace foundation and his second son had nothing to do with Lee Yong-ho.
Sons, foundation, butlers - so many things to explain, and yet the president is keeping silent or offering ceremonial apologies. But it looks like the situation will require the president to pull his head out of the sand. Even if the activities of his associates manage to survive the scrutiny of the special counsel's team now, they will not survive the scrutiny of the next administration as long as the suspicions in people's minds are not cleared up. President Kim's family problems will become national misfortunes if the next administration looks into them. Why burden the next administration with the cleanup job? We've already seen how hearings and reinvestigations lead to even more conflict and friction internally and national disgrace externally.
President Kim should bare what should be bared and explain what should be explained about his family and save us the trouble of a national investigation. Bare and bear responsibility. Silence is no way for the president of a country to deal with problems. The president must remember that the problems of his foundation, his son, his wife's nephew, and his butler are not problems of someone else but his own.
Even the most courageous staff member would hesitate before revealing the president's family problems, and even the most brilliant prosecutor would be at a loss as to how to proceed with an investigation. The president should step in and clear the barriers for them to speak up and take action.
President Kim now faces the "season to reap." The good deeds done during his administration will have good consequences and the bad deeds will have bad consequences. The 80 years of the president's life almost seem like material for a novel. After much suffering, he became president, held the first North-South Korea summit meeting and won the Nobel Peace Prize. As a human, as a politician, he has probably achieved his highest dreams. This should be the perfect time to lean back and take it easy. Think of the tranquil life he could enjoy after stepping down.
For his own peace, the president should relinquish his hold on the peace foundation. What need is there for his image to continue taking a battering? Mr. Kim should remove his second son from the foundation's board and make the foundation a public one. Providing details of the foundation's funding would be a constructive first step.
He could also explain his third son's mansion in the United States. The public is curious about how a student without any meaningful income could afford such a nice house. Indulge them. Explaining what needs to be explained can make problems go away.
What the president needs most of all is self-reflection about the reasons why there are so many rumors circulating about connections between his friends and family and bribery, meddling in government affairs and even associations with organized crime. Has there been any past period when we've heard so much noise about sons, nephews, butlers and advisers? Why is there such a level and consistency of noise around President Kim? That's something for him to ponder.
If he decides, after deep thought, to let his eldest son retire from political activities for which he is not physically fit, or to donate a large part of his family fortune to society, he can move people's hearts and set an excellent precedent for future administrations.
Such decisions could help solve the family problems easily. And once these problems are solved, the solutions will provide a better basis for the family - and the president - to start anew. Without decisive actions by the president, the remaining 11 months of his administration could end up with his reputation crumbling under public distrust and muddled investigations. We need action, not silence.
The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok