[VIEWPOINT] Bury Past Scandals for Cleaner Politics

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[VIEWPOINT] Bury Past Scandals for Cleaner Politics

As the term of President Kim Dae-jung enters its last two years, popular politicians and bureaucrats soon will be involved in a fierce battle to win hegemony. Those elite government officials who have in-depth knowledge of government functions may think that grass-roots politicians are not ready to manage our country yet. On the other hand, the populists will think that those government officials are nothing more than the elite raised in protected greenhouses. Each group has formed its battle lines focused on local favoritism - either election winners call the tune, or bureaucrats do.

Because such circumstances often occur in any political arena, labeling local favoritism as behavior ruinous to the nation is an exaggeration. Compared to many countries where differences in religions, languages and races brought about splits and antagonisms, local favoritism is, in fact, nothing to worry seriously about. In our society today, communism and anti-communism, which were once practiced almost like religions, have lost their influence and are reduced to skeletons in the grave.

At this point, the people have to keep their distance from everyday political battles and maintain a cool attitude. Because the warring groups will have to approach each other eventually, people do not have to worry about their emotional fights based on local favoritism. Does the grass roots have to be disturbed by the political struggle between an old group of people who enjoyed vested rights and the newcomers in power?

What we should consider most seriously is how to move on to the next step. In order to do so, the president must break the chains of politics of retaliation. That is the way to free all of us from the sin of Korean politics: political slush funds.

It is clear that no politicians in Korea can be free from black money. There have been three general elections during the course of democratization. Where do the astronomical amounts of money come from? The answer is obvious. There are no funds raised without the intention to gain influence in our world. It is a physiological phenomenon, even before talking about ethics, that a person who eats a salty dish has to drink lots of water.

It was Franklin Roosevelt's favorite tactic to pressure political rivals by taking advantage of the Internal Revenue Service. However, in Korea, there is hardly any way to raise political funds without taking advantage of black money. Those holding a sword by the hilt should not brandish the sword - in this case, the laws - against the group holding on to the blade. If they do, the results will be politics of butchery, not mutual survival.

In order to escape from such trap, the president is empowered with the right to grant amnesty. The president should grant amnesty and pardon to those involved in scandals of political slush funds in the past. If President Kim Dae-jung postpones what he can do simply right now, the issue will dog him in the future. Former presidents were imprisoned for similar offenses, and now former President Kim Young-sam, who harshly drove them into the corner, has become the next target. Will Mr. Kim be idle facing the risk coming at him?

There is no way to remove the dark shade of slush funds covering Korean politics at once, but future-oriented efforts to gradually and steadily reduce the amount of such funds is the only possible way to rescue our politics. As Kim Young-sam said recently, "Politics is reality," and as Otto von Bismark said "Politics is the art of the possible."

Saying we can resolve all the outstanding issues from the three-Kims era is nothing more than political propaganda. Maybe Kim Young-sam, who placed more importance on holding the presidential election as scheduled rather than judging a political slush fund scandals strictly by the law immediately before the election, made the correct decision.

The writer is a political commentator based in the United States.


by Kim Sang-ki

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