[VIEWPOINT]Politics of Public Opinion Doesn't Work

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[VIEWPOINT]Politics of Public Opinion Doesn't Work

The Kim Dae-jung administration, which has only one-third of its term left, is now going through its most difficult time. The so-called DJP coalition, which propped up the administration, though it was not enough - has eventually collapsed. And the internal troubles of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party have expanded in the process of trying to settle problems.

This may not be a phenomenon limited only to this regime, which has seen falling "support" ratings by the public and a weakening government and ruling party. However, the current administration's difficulties have become much more serious than that of former ones, chiefly because it has become minority power in the National Assembly.

The recognition of the realities and countermeasures, which the Blue House has shown, worries us. Though there is a movement to hold a summit between the presidents of the ruling and opposition parties, the Blue House has mentioned "politics of appealing directly to the people" as the main countermeasure, after the breakup of the DJP coalition. Though this has not revealed its substance, it implies a political strategy in which the Blue House appeals support directly to the people instead of going through the National Assembly and the opposition party to execute its policies.

More important, what is unclear is how the strategy will prove helpful for the administration. On the contrary, relying on a strategy of appealing to the people directly for support seems to be too unrealistic a measure that would likely have negative repercussions for the future of a Korean democracy as well.

At this point, the administration does not have the resources to draw out popular support. As James A. Baker, the former chief of staff during the Reagan era, pointed out, "The first priority is economy, the second is economy and the third is economy also," the most critical criteria for obtaining the people's support is national economic situation. But we are now seeing that the national economy is going down drastically, making life difficult for all. And considering the polarization of our society over North-South relations and the many social policies, it is a dubious thought that the current administration will get the support from the people through the so-called "politics of appealing directly to the people."

The more grave issue is that the ruling camp will merely detour the checking from the National Assembly, which is now under the control of the opposition party, and try to appeal and get direct support from the people. It means that the current administration feels uncomfortable to the idea of the checks and balance between the administration and the legislative organ which is a key factor in a presidential system. And it intends to employ a strategy of focusing on "public opinion." When the staff of the Blue House make repeated calls on "politics of appealing directly to the people," it is evident that our democracy has not reached the level of a representative democracy that is operated by system and legal procedures.

Of the failure of President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said, "Depending upon public opinion and executing the policies of near- sighted nature will lead to easy failure which would eventually lead to the breakdown of public trust for the government." It is hard to say whether Kissinger's warning was relevant only to the United States of the 1970s.

If so, what way should the current administration opt? To solve the current problems one should first start with respecting common principles. In a democracy under the presidential system, though there are various means to exercise check on a president holding onto power, the core of the system lies with the legislative organ - the National Assembly. And the Korean people gave more seats to the opposition in the last general election, in order that it effectively check the administration. Eventually, the common cooperation and balancing with the National Assembly should be the first step taken. Ahead of direct appeal to the people, the Blue House should try to persuade and cooperate with the National Assembly, instead of avoiding it. That is ensuring the people's order by election.


The writer is a professor of political science at ChungAng University.

by Jaung Hoon

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