[NOTEBOOK]Roh, say no to the 'three Kims'The storm surrounding Roh Moo-hyun has been strong during the past two months as the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's primary took place.
The storm shook the theories that the majority support Lee Hoi-chang, the former president of the Grand National Party, or Rhee In-je, Mr. Roh's rival in the ruling party, as presidential hopefuls. These two men seemed to be unbeatable over the last few years.
There have been numerous discussions concerning how Mr. Roh has obtained such tremendous popularity and who his supporters might be. Those answers are now becoming apparent.
People who have been disgusted with the political establishment ?people who are thinking, "I will be relieved if the current political sector is overthrown" ?are Mr. Roh's main supporters. In addition to these discontents, those who voted for Kim Dae-jung in the 1997 election also support Mr. Roh.
Millennium Democratic Party lawmakers from Jeolla province say that the "residents in the region are excited" at the popularity of Mr. Roh. Some 90 percent of those polled in Jeolla province have supported Mr. Roh in popularity matches between Mr. Roh and Mr. Lee. The majority of former student activists and those inclined to progressivism support Mr. Roh.
The united strength of President Kim's supporters and progressive elements in the last election are not enough to account for Mr. Roh's support rating, which exceeded 50 percent. The earnest desire for fresh politics has united people. But Mr. Roh's flattering attitude toward two of the Kims, which he assumed as soon as he won the Millennium Democratic Party's presidential nomination, is far from what people who long for new politics expected.
We could regard Mr. Roh's visit to President Kim on Monday as simply a courtesy to "a senior of the party." But it is more difficult to explain why Mr. Roh visited the house of former President Kim Young-sam on Tuesday. Will he say, "It was a minimum courtesy, because I entered the political world on the recommendation from Mr. Kim?" Such an account will not be persuasive.
Mr. Roh himself said, "It is a great change that a presidential nominee, who can visit both President Kim and Former President Kim, has appeared."
Mr. Roh is planning a political realignment for a "new grand coalition of democratic forces," which means an alliance of supporters of President Kim and former President Kim. When former President Kim won the presidential election in 1992, after becoming a presidential nominee through the integration of the three parties, Mr. Roh criticized it as the "highest perfection of opportunism."
Yet, on Monday, Mr. Roh made his best efforts to please former President Kim by visiting him at his house and wearing a watch that Mr. Kim had given him 13 years ago. The scene was too embarrassing to watch. A political realignment through such methods will not become, as the public wants and Mr. Roh advocates, a "political realignment toward a political party with a concrete platform transcending regional antagonism."
Former President Kim never expressed a favorable view to-ward President Kim's North Korea policy and reform policies, which Mr. Roh has declared that he would continue. Mr. Roh's plan to ally President Kim and former President Kim, who have differing views and policies, seems to come from his intent to use regional political strengths to win the presidential election. He seems intent on winning votes in the Jeolla provinces, based on President Kim's support, and also amassing votes in the Gyeong-sang provinces, based on the bles-sings of former President Kim.
If President Kim and Kim Young-sam gain new strength through Mr. Roh's plan, Kim Jong-pil, the leader of the United Liberal Democrats, will also try to gain strength, based on the reaction of the residents in the Chungcheong provinces. Then the aspirations of most Korean people, who are tired of the three Kims, would be dashed.
Mr. Roh should attempt to end old politics represented by the three Kims. The correct path is for Mr. Roh to present a new vision and political platform and then align those politicians who advocate his view under his banner.
The writer is political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo