[OUTLOOK]The two faces of Park Jie-won

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[OUTLOOK]The two faces of Park Jie-won

More than 20 days have passed since President Kim Dae-jung reshuffled his cabinet. And still Park Jie-won, who was appointed special adviser to the president for policy, remains a main topic of conversation among the politicians I meet. Mr. Park, a trusted aide to President Kim and former senior secretary for policy and planning, had been sacrificed two months ago in a party revolt against old-guard factionalism. Politicians are curious about Mr. Park's future role.

"I will not engage in politics," Mr. Park himself said. He declared that the Blue House would not intervene in political affairs. Then, what will he engage in? Will he decide on economic policies? Nonsense! Or will he do nothing? Then why was he appointed as special adviser?

A politician who refused to be identified met with Mr. Park three days before the reshuffle. According to the politician, Mr. Park had already anticipated that he would return to the Blue House. He told the politician some interesting things. Mr. Park insisted that the opposition parties would welcome his return to the Blue House. He even identified an opposition party official who favored his comeback.

The official is Ha Soon-bong, a vice president of the opposition Grand National Party. Mr. Ha is Mr. Park's window on the opposition party. He is also a close aide to Lee Hoi-chang, the president of the Grand National Party.

"If President Kim Dae-jung conducts a realignment of political parties, I will collapse and the ruling party will also collapse," Mr. Park insisted, according to the politician. "So I will return to the Blue House to prevent it. I will prevent some ruling party officials from encouraging the president to restructure political parties." Mr. Park said the same to many other persons in addition to the politician. I met with Mr. Ha to confirm whether Mr. Park indeed had said such things. "I ate with him several times," Mr. Ha said. "What did he say?" I asked. Mr. Ha delivered Mr. Park's comments.

The comments were similar to what I had heard from the unnamed politician. Quoting Mr. Park, Mr. Ha said President Kim has no more ambition, and he will not make excessive efforts to help a ruling party candidate win the presidential election later this year. That would mean that President Kim will not conduct any reorganization of political parties.

According to Mr. Ha, Mr. Park said more things. He said that President Kim would not help any presidential hopefuls in the ruling Millennium Democratic Party to become a candidate for presidency. President Kim thinks that anybody who became a candidate and won the presidency would press President Kim after the end of his presidency, Mr. Park said.

"There is no realignment," Mr. Park said clearly to the Grand National Party official. "Did you encourage Mr. Park to return to the Blue House?" I asked Mr. Ha. "I just told him that a moderate such as himself must have strength," Mr. Ha said. He seems to be thinking that the hard-liners in the ruling party are demanding a reorganization. Mr. Park might have encouraged him to think that way. "Do you believe Mr. Park?" I asked Mr. Ha. "As for me, I believe him," he said.

But Kim Yoon-whan, the leader of the minor opposition Democratic People's Party, who has insisted on a realignment of political parties, also trusts Mr. Park.

"Mr. Park will take some role for the realignment of political parties," Mr. Kim said. That's just the opposite of what Mr. Ha said about Mr. Park. "What on earth is Mr. Park's view?" I asked Mr. Kim. "He said that he and I share one thought," Mr. Kim said.

Accordingly, either Mr. Ha or Mr. Kim is deceived. Maybe both are deceived.

Mr. Kim added, "But Mr. Park will not work for reorganization openly." Mr. Kim insisted that it is very important to keep the work going for the realignment of political parties. And he added that Mr. Park's most important rule is to work in secret.

So it seems Mr. Park wears two faces. I don't know which face is the true one, but it is an important fact that two different politicians trust two different faces. Maybe it is a great skill on Mr. Park's part. But I don't think much of this skill. Finally, it means we cannot believe a politician.


The writer is a staff writer on political affairs of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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