[TODAY]Families, power, morality, ethics

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[TODAY]Families, power, morality, ethics

Whoever coined the word "kleptocracy" was very clever. The word refers to politics that are in the interest of thieves and run by thieves who fill their pockets by manipulating power.

President Kim Dae-jung seems as though he is drifting, enervated, in a boundless ocean of scandals in which his secretaries, his brother-in-law, his wife's nephew and his sons are all implicated.

Chairman Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China often used a Chinese phrase that means, "Let's use the failures in the past as a lesson for the future." The same phrase is hung at the 1894 Sino-Japanese War Memorial Museum at Dalian. President Kim's woes began when he neglected the wisdom of Chairman Jiang's often-quoted motto.

As a candidate in 1997, Mr. Kim blasted the president for not reining in his son. Kim Young-sam's second son, Kim Hyun-chul, was found guilty of involvement in several scandals.

But compared to the scandals in which Kim Hyun-chul was involved, the corruption scandals all three sons of Kim Dae-jung are accused of are much worse both in scope and content.

Was it insolence or absentmindedness that led Mr. Kim, a self-styled student of history, to reject the lessons of the Kim Hyun-chul scandal?

The sons, relatives and the people around Kim Dae-jung have caused ordinary people who follow the rules to despair. The incidents here inevitably bring to mind countries such as Indonesia, Serbia, Nigeria and Russia, where sons and daughters of the highest authorities used their fathers' office to enrich themselves.

Indonesia is a country full of natural resources. While it was under the tyranny of President Suharto, his sons and daughters monopolized profitable businesses and amassed private wealth amounting to $15 billion. With such economic manipulation, how could the financial crisis in 1997 have passed Indonesia by?

Former President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia is on trial at the International Court of Justice at The Hague for crimes against humanity. His son Marco monopolized the import of whiskey, wine and cigarettes while the country was being torn apart by a civil war. Marco Milosevic lived a luxurious life in his villa on the Aegean Sea with the money that he made from his import monopoly and discotheque businesses.

The son of the military dictator, Sani Abacha, who ruled the oil producing country of Nigeria, amassed wealth of $3 billion or perhaps double that through oil, aluminum, steel and real estate businesses that depended on his father's authority. Mohammad Abacha, who lost most of his illicit gains after his father's death in 1998, is also on trial for allegedly murdering a political opponent.

Since 1987 Korea has prided itself on having moved from being a politically underdeveloped nation to a developing one. But what is happening now? Presidential sons, secretaries and even the first lady's nephew and brother, who all have flaunted the president's authority, are turning the clock back 10 or 20 years, destroying our fledgling political transparency and morality.

How different are Tommy Suharto, Marco Milosevic, Mohammad Abacha and the three sons of Kim Dae-jung; Kim Hong-il, Kim Hong-up and Kim Hong-gul? Are there no values other than money for the sons of a president who received the Nobel Peace Prize? Were they that mentally undernourished?

During the 1997 presidential election campaign, Kim Dae-jung asserted that he would be a president who would be prepared. The majority of the voters were convinced, but they were under some illusions.

The presidency is not a one-man show. President Kim did not realize that his family, relatives and confidantes must also have morals and a willingness to serve equal to that of the president himself. Candidates for president must take the failure of President Kim as an object lesson, and study how the sons, the relatives, the wife and the intimates of the president should behave.

Former U.S. President George Bush told his sons to put their political ambitions on hold while he was president.

Malaysia's prime minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, is famous for rigorously controlling his sons and daughters. Dr. Mahathir's daughter, a journalist, has mercilessly criticized her father's policies.

Ronald Reagan's son, Ron Reagan, spoke of the difficulties of being the son of the nation's highest leader. He said: Once a president's son, always a president's son.

We don't expect that much, but we hope the son of the president will conduct himself ethically at least while his father is in office.

If the Blue House is morally desolate, Korean society will be ethically lost.


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The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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