[EDITORIALS]'Like flowing water...'

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[EDITORIALS]'Like flowing water...'

At the first press briefing after his presidential victory, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said strongly he wanted reform. Mr. Roh made clear, however, that his reforms will not be radical but a gradual progress.

"Reform is not like going up a step when it reaches a time," Mr. Roh said. "It is like flowing water." His remark shows the principle behind his reform program. Understanding that his image is that of an unstable radical, Mr. Roh said he wanted to prepare thoroughly and consult with experts and officials when he answers questions about major domestic and international issues.

Naturally, we are paying great attention to his thinking on reforms and the other fundamentals of national governance like his "new politics," peace and prosperity on the peninsula and a transparent and fair economy. Most of the public is tired of the Kim Dae-jung government's endless, unsubstantiated reform slogans. Dictatorial reform makes for reform fatigue. Mr. Roh must have learned a lesson from that by calling his program "reform like flowing water."

Mr. Roh also made it clear that his foreign affairs policy would be the same as this one's in its fundamentals. Mr. Roh stressed the importance of close collaboration among South Korea, Japan and the United States to resolve the North Korean nuclear threat peacefully. That seemed like a move to ease the public feeling of insecurity about him. "The national sentiment was expressed outspokenly after the road deaths of two school girls in June," Mr. Roh said. "Other than that, there was no demand that the South Korea-U.S. alliance must be redefined at its roots." Mr. Roh made clear that the traditional alliance between the two countries remains intact.

The president-elect expressed a great interest in political reform, but said he would not hurry. Asked if he is planning to force opposition party lawmakers to defect to his party in order to counter the reality of a majority opposition party and a minority governing party, Mr. Roh answered, "No." But he added, "That has to be taken care of by politicians themselves, and everyone will cooperate in the direction that the public desires." The latter remark suggests that he does indeed want to maneuver lawmakers to his side.

Mr. Roh took pains to try to ease the business community's uneasiness about him because of his stress on welfare and the distribution of wealth. He said his position on conglomerate reform had been distorted, emphasizing that "active economic activities by large business groups are important." Mr. Roh added that he will modify elements of the system that could trigger a economic crisis unless those changes would themselves harm the economy. He also called for more flexibility in the labor market.

Mr. Roh was extremely careful when he answered questions about the livelihood of the middle class. Mr. Roh said a team of experts will work hard to meet their needs, adding that he will keep real estate and consumer prices under control while revitalizing the economy. Mr. Roh's temperate reform policy was a relief to many at home and abroad who were skeptical about his style of governance and the directions of his policy. Korea will be watching how he puts the public desire for change into his reforms and how he implements such reforms calmly, like flowing water.

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