&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Can Roh follow Putin's script?

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[FOUNTAIN]Can Roh follow Putin's script?

President-elect Roh Moo-hyun is similar to President Vladimir Putin of Russia in age, birthplace, reform instincts, public reputation and style. Mr. Putin hails from St. Petersburg, a port city. Mr. Roh also comes from Busan, a southern port city of Korea. Both of them were chosen as political successors with their predecessors' designation or help. They showed absurdly low popularity compared with their competitors when they began their presidential campaigns.

They have also used similar strategies in appointing people to senior posts. Mr. Putin filled many posts with bureaucrats and specialists, except for several key positions, telling his followers who were jockeying for position after his election that he needed them all and more reform-minded persons "to fulfill reform tasks."

He took over the Kremlin's core staff of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, almost intact. Alexander Voloshin, the chief of staff, and Sergei Prihodko, presidential secretary for foreign affairs, were retained. Mr. Roh designated as his first chief of staff Moon Hee-sang, who is a member of President Kim Dae-jung's Donggyo-dong faction in the Millennium Democratic Party. Mr. Roh has reiterated that his policies toward North Korea and neighboring countries would not differ from those of the outgoing administration.

Mr. Roh and Mr. Putin were recognized as nationalistic leaders but were unknown overseas before they were elected. Right after his inauguration, Mr. Putin had to cope with NATO's eastward expansion and threats from President George W. Bush's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. The problems were as difficult as North Korea's nuclear crisis that Mr. Roh is confronted with. But Mr. Putin smoothly solved the problems, overcoming fierce resistance from his army and populist clamor for national prestige. He even approved a U.S. Army presence in central Asia after the Sept. 11 terrorism. Unexpected incidents occurred at home, including the loss of a nuclear submarine and a terror attack by Chechen rebels at a Moscow theater. But far from being branded a traitor, he is extremely popular.

Mr. Putin is a pragmatist. He can explain reality to his people, but he also looks to Russia's future. He demonstrates how successfully a young, vigorous leader can renovate a nation. Can Mr. Roh be a successful leader like Mr. Putin? Let's look for his practical reforms.

by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.
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