[OUTLOOK]Our duty toward people of Jeolla

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[OUTLOOK]Our duty toward people of Jeolla

What sort of president is Kim Dae-jung? The answer to this question demands a clear understanding of the duties of a president. Although the president of any country must attend to a host of obligations, two tasks are imperative.

First, the duty to build peace: A president who leads his country into war is a president who has failed.

The second significant presidential duty is to bake the bread. In other words, a president must provide a stable economy. Whatever else a president might accomplish if the president fails either of these duties, problems will arise.

For example, though President Syngman Rhee rebuilt Korea as a republic, he failed to bring it peace. The president who was in office at the outset of the financial crisis failed to bake the bread.

Taking these two duties as the yardstick, President Kim Dae-jung appears to have been successful. Although tension on the peninsula intensified for a brief moment in January after U.S. President George W. Bush named the "axis of evil," overall the sunshine policy has brought more peace to the peninsula than previous administrations have.

Mr. Kim has provided a lot of bread to the public as well. The nation has successfully met the challenge of the financial crisis, and Korea was seen by the world financial institutions as a model country which succeeded in economic restructuring.

I believe that despite the problems, including the financial scandals and the wayward actions of relatives, Mr. Kim will be highly evaluated by historians.

However, Kim Dae-jung must attend another obligation as president -- his responsibility to the Jeolla provinces.

Mr. Kim would never have become president without the support of the people of the Jeolla provinces. He would not be the man he is without the sacrifice and the devotion of the Jeolla provinces. He must confront the grudge that still lies within the people of the Jeolla provinces.

In our history, there are chapters which have sown grievances in the Jeolla provinces. The people there have suffered over the years and are bitter.

The people of the Jeolla provinces have been waiting for decades and in some cases almost a century for someone to relieve them of their grief and bitterness.

The Jeolla people made their sacrifice for Mr. Kim because they see him as the person who will relieve their bitterness.

How is Mr. Kim attending to his obligation? On what basis should the evaluation be done?

The basis is simple: Mr. Kim's presidential term is near its end; therefore, the evaluation basis should be whether the number of people who are biased toward the people of the Jeolla provinces has increased or decreased compared with the period before Mr. Kim was inaugurated.

According to this standard, Mr. Kim's performance has not been good. The bias toward the Jeolla provinces, which is the chief reason for the bitterness in Jeolla people, has increased day by day instead of decreasing. Hostile feelings toward Jeolla people have also started to grow.

What is the source of enmity? The answer is simple. It is a result of the favorable treatment of a few thousand people holding government office who are of Jeolla origin. I understand that such favorable treatment came from the motive to compensate the Jeolla provinces for past official discrimination. However, the effort to relieve the bitterness of a few thousand people from the Jeolla provinces who are in government has resulted in a deeper feeling of bitterness in the hearts of millions who live there. This is the distressing result: incurring a great loss by pursuing a small profit.

The number of people concerned over the possible bad treatment of Jeolla people after the Kim Dae-jung administration has been replaced has increased.

As a native of Gyeongsang province who sided with and participated with politicians of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party under the guise of relieving regional disputes, I am one of those who are worried about the future of the Jeolla provinces.

President Kim must accomplish his obligation toward the people of Jeolla province. It may sound paradoxical but relieving grievances of Jeolla people can be achieved by healing the wounds of non-Jeolla people. But not much time is left now. A president must create peace not only outside the country but also within it.


The writer is a professor of international law at Sejong University.

by Junn Sung-chull

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