[INSIGHT]Ending the political mud fight

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[INSIGHT]Ending the political mud fight

President Roh Moo-hyun displays excellent rhetorical skills. At a recent press conference, he compared last year’s presidential election campaign to sports ground on a muddy field. He said that it was like a foul play, in which a ball is kicked not on an even field but on a slanted mud flat.
But the problem is that the present political situation is not far from the so-called mud fight of “500 versus 50.” The dispute continues over illegal campaign funds, with those allegedly raised by Lee Hoi-chang’s camp totaling more than 50 billion won ($42 million) while those of the Roh camp were less than 5 billion won, a tenth of the former. A fierce tit-for-tat war is going on, reminding us of the presidential campaign a year ago.
We thought that after having spent a whole year matching ideological “codes” and waging a war against the press, President Roh had finally learned a lesson and is now ready to put all his efforts into rebuilding the nation’s economy. But the president, the majority opposition party and large companies are all engaged in a mud fight, stuck in the swamp of illegal campaign funds.
It is a miserable fight of losers that no one can win. If this confused fight ends in a short time and serves as an opportunity for rebirth, we can at least tolerate the situation. But what will become of this country’s future if the swamp is deep and the tug of war continues at least until the elections in April?
Why do we see the present political situation as a mud fight? The presidential election ended a year ago.
The winner and loser were decided a long time ago. The loser immediately declared that he would retire from the political arena and clearly wash his hands of politics.
But the winner is biting the loser again. A winner’s generosity is nowhere to be found, and a loser’s humility is lost as well. The present political situation is comparable to a boxing match in which a cornered loser is desperately defying the winner, asking to fight another round.
If last year’s presidential election was a foul play in the mud, the winner should have reflected on the unfairness of that play and made every effort to turn the muddy field into a lawn, so that the same thing wouldn’t happen again.
If the ground was uneven, the winner should have considered how to turn it into a level field by changing laws and systems.
Showing the generosity and magnanimity of a winner, he should have moved toward running a fair play in the next game. But the winner, no different from the loser, is involved in a rematch with the loser on a muddy field again, shouting for the advantage of a tenth. Is it right for him to do so?
The winner, who was a minority candidate in last year’s presidential election but now is the president, should not call the present field a level one. Although the president said he would not rely politically on the power of the prosecution and the National Intelligence Service, presidential authority is still powerful.
Also, when the head of the prosecution appointed by the president acts as a referee in this game, it is hard to consider the game fair. However independent and fair the prosecution might be, could it uncover an incumbent president’s illegal campaign funds thoroughly? It would be worrisome if the prosecution is unable to disclose them and embarrassing if it does.
The winner’s dishonesty of 50 is no less serious than the loser’s illegality of 500. The weight of responsibility could be heavier. Spectators would not believe the outcome of the game even if the president shouts that the match, which has already been played on an uneven field, was played on level ground.
How could this confused fight in the mud be put to an early end? One who has tied a knot must untie it. Not the loser, but the winner, must untie it. The winner asked for the mud fight himself, based on his shallow idea that he would gain some profit in the coming legislative elections by exposing the loser’s unfair play in the past.
This tactic will hardly work in this situation. Millions of spectators are watching the game with their eyes wide open.
The prosecution has no choice but to blow the whistle to call a foul for a clear violation of the rules. But what matters is not who was fair in the mud fight. Although it is a belated move, the president should get off the muddy ground now and turn toward building a new grass field.
Our present task is to escape from the quagmire of the past and make an effort to create new values for the future. If we are excessively preoccupied with past crimes and their punishment, we will be lost. Such signs have already appeared.
The president should not say that it is too late to mend fences. Rather, now is an opportune time to do so. Leaders of the four political parties should convene again, confess their past wrongdoings of their own accord, and appeal to the people that the politicians would work toward the future.
The president should take the initiative in this task. That is the duty of the winner and the right path for the chief executive of a country to follow.

* The writer is the executive editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Young-bin
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