[VIEWPOINT]The model of a successful presidentThe year 2003 will indeed be a "new year" in Korean politics because we will have a new president and a new government. This new year, voices call out in unison for political reforms. What is called "two Kims" or "three Kims" politics, referring to the politics of the 1980s and '90s, was the politics of centralization and abuse of power, one-man rule by the president, political factionalism, diversion of public power for private use, messy regionalism and large-scale corruption centered around those with power. In this, the governments of the two recent civilian presidents were no better than the military dictatorship before.
Instead of working to improve our national productivity and capabilities in this changing international society, those who took power used it to cater to their own greedy needs.
As was proved in this presidential election, now is the time for a fundamental change in our political paradigm. In Korea, political reforms need to start with party reforms. Each party now faces the task of reforming itself. Yet certain forces within each party cling like leeches to the old form of politics in which the biggest and most boisterous voice wins. Both the human factor and the system need to be renovated simultaneously for a successful reform.
Reforms are not brought by words alone. They need to be conducted by establishing an appropriate political operating system with the right personnel assignments and the implementation of a suitable plan. We have a presidential government, so it is imperative that we know how to operate this system successfully in order to carry out a national reform and make a success out of our president. We did not know the correct way to operate a presidential system in the past. Because of this our presidents were left to misuse their power and they ended up as failed presidents with sons in jail for corruption.
Last year, the U.S. Congress awarded former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan the Congress-ional Gold Medal in recognition of their service to the country. In the ceremony, several members of the Senate and the House of Representatives came out one by one to praise Mr. Reagan. The glory and pride of the United States was at its highest during the Reagan era, and never has there been a better understanding between the Congress and the administration. National security was sturdy and the national administration transparent. Mr. Reagan was praised as a great president who successfully led a presidential government by wisely earning the cooperation of the Congress. Amid the deafening applause, Mrs. Reagan, who received the medal in place of her husband and for herself, thanked the crowd and left escorted by President George W. Bush. It was a heartwarming scene.
"How to make a successful president." This is perhaps the most natural question asked by many Koreans before last month's presidential election. Ten precious years have been wasted since democracy first bloomed in this country.
What kind of a person should become president? What is the role of the president? What should the president do during his term to successfully govern the country? What should the Blue House and the cabinet do? Who should aid the president and how? What should be the relationship between the president and the National Assembly? Who should be in the transition team and what should they do? How is the reform program to be conducted? These were some of questions asked in the discussions. Reform plans for the Blue House staff and new models of the roles of the president and the prime minister also emerged out of these discussions.
The classical model referred to in many of these discussions was the Reagan administration. Mr. Reagan had 15 years of careful preparation to become president. His long search for those who would help him govern the country; his strict distinguishing of those who helped his campaign and those who would help his presidency; and the smooth and systematic transition of power based on long-wrought philosophy and ideology promised a great presidency. His wisdom in distinguishing what to do and what not to do during his term and the appointment of the right people to the right places at the right time made his presidency a case model for any presidential government to follow.
In a presidential government, even reforms work only if they are carried out inside the framework of a correct system. Lack of preparation makes the president vulnerable to the temptation of misusing his power in office. Such crudeness that endangers the welfare of the country must stop. A sophisticated and systematic way of governance mobilizing the right bright minds would enable us to carry out our reforms and make a successful president.
Isn't it worth a try?
by Chong Jong-sup
* The writer is a professor of law at Seoul National University.