[TODAY]Heal the wounds and move on

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[TODAY]Heal the wounds and move on

President Kim Dae-jung's confession that he was sick with worry about the train of scandals that have hit his administration was shocking. The head of state should keep his mind clear under adverse circumstances and resolve problems cool-headedly so that people can be assured of their safety. Consider why Machiavelli chose the wits of a fox and the courage of a lion as an ideal politician's characteristics.

Questioned about when there will be a cabinet reshuffle, President Kim answered that he had not thought the matter through because he was distracted by the thought that more problems will arise. It sounded as if the president has had no peace of mind for a long time. Cabinet reshuffling aside, it is a blessing that our nation has not faced a real emergency during this period. President Kim looked tired, both mentally and physically. The color had left his face and his voice sounded cracked and devoid of strength. He seemed absent-minded, forgetting to answer three questions and going back to answer only two when his mistake was pointed out. Answers to other questions were incomplete.

As the president said at the news conference, there are many issues to address. There are economic difficulties, unemployment, the presidential election and the World Cup. The person responsible for finding ways to address these issues is the president.

Unfortunately, at a time when he most needs it, the president has lost the public's confidence in him; his own closest advisers and staff members have been involved in corruption and bribery. What the president needs to do, first and foremost, is to convince the people that he and his government can be trusted.

The prosecutor general's resignation should be followed by other detailed and thorough countermeasures to slam the door on opportunities for corruption. There is cynicism and moral nihilism in the air. How are we to ever come together and energize ourselves to host the World Cup and the Asian Games successfully? How are we to hold the presidential election properly and solve our problems of unemployment and affordable housing for our people?. How can the welfare of the public be guaranteed?

President Kim gave the impression that he was trying to downplay the significance of the scandals throughout the press conference. Are these "incidents" just isolated problems in start-ups, as he suggested? And are the public officials, financiers and even some incumbent Blue House staff members merely "suspected" of being involved in these bribery cases?

The corruption cases are more than just isolated cases of wrongdoing found in a few start-up businesses, and that certain Blue House staff members were involved is beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, why was the president silent on the subject of National Policy Agency and National Intelligence Service officials who were also involved in cases of corruption? An issue that should have been pursued at the conference is whether a consistent pattern of corruption and malfeasance of high-ranking officials has something to do with the structure of the Kim Dae-jung administration itself. It is a pity that only one journalist raised it in the press conference.

Ironically, what worried me the most in the news conference was the president's reassurance that he will personally take care of the welfare of the common people. That is what President Kim Young-sam said near the close of his term, and that is when the financial crisis appeared.

The president has four major tasks - the economy, public welfare, suppression of corruption, and North-South relations. Will the other three problems disappear if he personally takes care of the second task? If the president personally devotes himself to public welfare, how will his ministers occupy their time? A thorough and fair investigation into the scandals should be the president's first priority. No other problem could possibly be solved without the "-gates" being cleaned up and then locked.

Last year, President Kim declared war on the media in his New Year's press conference, and tried to show the Joongang Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo what happens when newspapers are too critical of the authorities. What happened to this "media reform"? Is the president happy with the results, or does he feel that more is needed? We should have asked that question.

We welcome President Kim's show of determination that he won't back down. But listening to his lame protestations that appointments based on regional and old school ties have decreased, and that the public funds problem was a remnant of the former administration, it made me wonder. Is President Kim a problem-solver or part of the problem?


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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