[REPORTER'S DIARY]Don't Get Tangled in the Curtain

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]Don't Get Tangled in the Curtain

The refusal to perform official party duties by Kim Joong-kwon, chairman of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, ended as a rather pathetic half-day rebellion.

Lee Ho-woong, Mr. Kim's chief secretary, relayed his boss' belief that "President Kim Dae-jung should be kept well informed of public opinion without it going through a filter," when explaining why the chairman of the party had not come to his office on Monday.

Mr. Kim himself openly criticized Blue House secretaries when he returned to his office on Tuesday. His method was indirect, but his point was simple. It was that the eyes and ears of President Kim Dae-jung are covered with "a human curtain" - in other words, that the president is spoon-fed with information by his staff.

A similar argument was made by a group of junior ruling party lawmakers when a scandal broke over the appointment of Ahn Dong-su as justice minister.

This "human curtain" is no new phenomenon. When Syngman Rhee, the first president of the Republic of Korea, was overthrown in the April 19 students' uprising in 1960, it was said that "while Mr. Rhee was respectable, he was spoiled by his staff." Kim Young-sam, another former president, was similarly chastised.

But the final public opinion is always the same: The president is ultimately responsible for all faults because he is the one who exercised the right to appoint his own personnel.

It makes Koreans very gloomy that, inside the current administration, which calls itself "the people's government," things occur "against the people."

The attitude of Kim Joong-kwon and the response of Blue House officials after Mr. Kim returned to his office also disappointed the public.

Even a child would have known the truth, but Blue House officials insisted that "Mr. Kim did not refuse to perform his official party duties; he was just ill." Mr. Kim himself also stepped back, saying that his walkout was just "a story manipulated by the media."

It is quite natural that all men wish to cover their disgrace. But we are afraid that the ruling party has been as a matter of course covering up the truth related to other important policy issues just as they cover their eyes with the palms of their hands.

The opposition Grand National Party held a workshop on Monday while the ruling party was suffering its troubles.

In the workshop, some opposition lawmakers stressed their loyalty to their leader, Lee Hoi-Chang. Their words were enough to make us cringe: "Mr. Lee is so bright and both his character and political ability have ripened," "Even at the expense of our own positions at the National Assembly, we should do our best so that Mr. Lee is elected the next president."

"The human curtain" is composed of such officials, who stress unconditional loyalty.

Grand National Party President Lee Hoi-chang as well as President Kim Dae-jung should keep in mind that a cautious leader never strays out of earshot of public opinion.

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Chong-hyuk

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