[EDITORIALS]5 years of glory and failure

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[EDITORIALS]5 years of glory and failure

The Kim Dae-jung administration today completes five years that brought stark contrasts of glory and failure. Overcoming the financial crisis and developing the information-technology business were among its triumphs, along with the successful hosting of the World Cup and the peaceful buildup of economic and cultural exchange between North and South Korea that eventually secured President Kim the Nobel Peace Prize. The darker side includes corruption scandals, clashes of ideology and partisanship, the deterioration of U.S.-Korea relations, the widening of the rich-poor gap and government appointments rife with regionalism.
Mr. Kim’s term started amid high expectations. The public hoped to see the first president from the Honam region mitigate regional enmity. It hoped he might overcome the difficulties of minority government through persuasion. The opposition majority proved too big for that, but, also, the president’s party resorted to unwise methods, cajoling opposition lawmakers and mobilizing pro-government civic movements. Relations sank to a stalemate of ceaseless push-and-shove.
The administration fell hardest in popular esteem when it failed to deliver on promised reforms. The education and medical system “reforms” are examples of the chaos and public alienation created. Late in its term, the ad-ministration was unable to unify the country. Internal power dynamics bred an oligarchy, and Mr. Kim’s personal ties became the cause of corruption involving two of his sons.
The Kim administration paved the way for reconciliation between North and South. It brought the historic summit, the reunion of separated families, ministerial-level meetings, roads and rails across the Demilitarized Zone and visits by South Koreans to Mount Geumgang. But an undue obsession with the “sunshine policy” led to illegal money dealing and gave rise to internal strife and insensitivity to national security. The secret money transfers to the North will plague President Kim even after retirement, while differences over a response to the North’s nuclear program have worsened U.S.-South relations.
Kim Dae-jung’s administration now faces history’s judgment. Roh Moo-hyun should heed the lessons of his predecessor.
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