[INSIGHT]Act III, Scene 3 about to unfold

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[INSIGHT]Act III, Scene 3 about to unfold

The first and the last scenes of a play determine whether the play will be a success or a failure. The first scene hints at what is to come and draws the attention of the audience. The last scene is what the audience holds in its mind as it leaves the theater.

A presidency has the same characteristics. A president's first 100 days and the last few months in office are important. The protagonist of this administration, President Kim Dae-jung, will move into history in a few months and become a memory; whether a good one or a bad one depends on how he performs in these final few months of his term.

What are President Kim's achievements? The first and most obvious answer would be his unification policies, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize. The first scene of his "unification play" admittedly had rough spots (as when the joint declaration claimed that there is a common element in the South's concept of a confederation and the North's formula for a loose form of federation) but it also was a heart-warming scene. We thought, "Finally the Korean Peninsula is changing. Finally, the North and the South are going to do something." The support from our society's liberals was almost unanimous. The actor Moon Sung-keun, who is also the son of Moon Ik-hwan, the late pastor and poet famous for visiting North Korea in the 1980s, said of the June 15 Joint Declaration, "What did Kim Dae-jung as a human being want to tell the people when he read the declaration? Could you not read his expression? 'Countrymen, you once called me a communist. No, I am not a communist. Now, will you believe in me? What I'd wanted to do for a long time was make this declaration. This is how we reconcile and go on exchanging and cooperating.' This is what he was telling us. President Kim, with the joint declaration, overcame what had been the first bitterness of his life, to have been called a communist."

Mr. Moon is right. The first scene of the unification was that exciting and hopeful. But what about the situation now? Two of his chiefs of staff were accused of having provided illicit cash to produce this emotional scene, and his minister of national defense was accused of having ignored warnings of the naval clash that occurred in the Yellow Sea to ensure the success of the president's unification play. As the play draws to an end, the public is becoming more and more confused. The head of the bank that had loaned the money that allegedly ended up in North Korean hands said he couldn't sleep at night thinking that it was with that money that our soldiers had been killed in the Yellow Sea. It is incredible to think that intimates of a president, who had sworn to abide by the constitution and defend our country, could have raised an illegal fund to send to North Korea.

The people want to know if those accusations are true. The head of an army intelligence unit who told part of the story said, "There is only one truth." The president is the best person to tell us what that truth is. I hope the president can proclaim from his own mouth, "It is not true." Why? Because he is our president. Unification might be important but there is also such a thing as national honor. Surely our president did not pass money behind our backs and beg for a meeting?

We must help the destitute North Koreans. We can give them rice, clothes and medicine and even build factories for them. But I would rather not think that those close to the president had committed such folly as to give the North Koreans money to arm themselves and threaten us.

But I also know that there is nothing to be done even if the president admitted that everything was true. It would have been his philosophy, his beliefs guiding his actions as president. He could say, "I felt that there was no other way but this for the North and the South to reconcile. I had to meet Kim Jong-il even if it meant paying money behind the back. Did we not give $3 billion to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union? But I will take responsibility for this illegal act. I cannot be criminally prosecuted while I am still president, but I will take responsibility when I step down."

I hope that President Kim's unification play has a courageous ending. Had it been his earnest hope for reunification that made him act that way, he should be able to say so with his head held high. If there is such a dashing last scene, President Kim's unification policies would be understood, if not endorsed, by all. Only such an attitude would allow the liberals who had supported him to continue with their efforts for reunification. Should the play end in a lukewarm drama as is going on now, President Kim could not escape criticism that he was driven only by personal ambition. He was our president for five years, and I would like him to go down in history as a good memory.


The writer is a strategic planning executive of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk

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