[EDITORIALS]Heading where for winter?

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[EDITORIALS]Heading where for winter?

Representative Rhee In-je left the Millennium Democratic Party on Sunday and said he will join the United Liberal Democrats. We must review closely the situation before and after his shift, even though his departure was long predicted. The environment and the factors involved in his flight are lessons that politicians, who seem to have neither principles nor political sense, should learn.

Today's announcement by Mr. Rhee is a culmination of an old story. In 1997, he refused to accept his defeat in the presidential nominee competition of the New Korea Party, now the Grand National Party, and quit the party to create a new one and run unsuccessfully for president. He then co-founded the MDP with Kim Dae-jung, but as he left the party last weekend, Mr. Rhee harshly criticized the Kim administration.

Mr. Rhee claimed after he failed to get the MDP presidential nomination earlier this year that it was a result of factional and regional political schemes. Perhaps that is true; perhaps not. But his reaction was the same -- he left the party.

Mr. Rhee said the reason for his departure was to "prevent corrupt, radical politicians from maintaining their control of the Blue House for another term," but that argument makes one wonder what he has been doing inside the party for the past five years.

The consequences of ignoring the basic principle of accepting defeat are harsh. If he had accepted defeat gracefully five years ago, he might have been a strong contender this time. The sequence of events reminds us again that the political rules of the road are not well established in Korea. Mr. Rhee should learn from his mistakes if he wants still another chance.

His record now stands at two defeats and two migrations. He should realize how this all looks to the public and what his choices are now. If he follows the old road of trying to build a regional base as the "three Kims" did in the past, he will self-destruct. Mr. Rhee once enjoyed considerable support, but now he has been humiliated. Politics is about principle, not schemes or skills.
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