[INSIGHT]End this silly 10% nonsense

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[INSIGHT]End this silly 10% nonsense

The prosecution’s investigation into allegations of illegal campaign funds used in last year’s presidential election has turned into an ugly political battle instead of a pursuit of reform. President Roh Moo-hyun’s so-called “one-tenth” proposal has not only seriously affected the prosecution’s investigation; it has become a problem that could decide the fate of the Roh Moo-hyun government.
Right now, supporters of the president are apprehensive that the illegal campaign funds received by the Roh Moo-hyun camp last year will indeed amount to more than one-tenth of those the Grand National Party amassed. Those disgruntled with the president are hoping that they will.
Underneath the immediate public rage and lament lies the more fundamental social apprehension at how such a thing could have happened, and whether there is any solution to this problem, but instead of looking for the cause and solution to corruption, the public is now more interested in whether the president’s illegal campaign funds will indeed be more than one-tenth of the opposition’s. The prosecution’s investigation has suddenly turned into a soccer match.
“There is no way the big firms could not have given money to the Roh Moo-hyun campaign so why are they keeping silent?” some might complain. “Is this some kind of a pretense put on by the ruling camp and the prosecution when they are really in it together?” Others protested, “Corrupt reactionaries are trying to shake us up.” Such suspicions and complaints are pouring out everywhere, supported by facts or not.
The strife and tension will be hard to heal no matter what the results of the prosecution’s investigation. Would the president’s supporters submit docilely if Mr. Roh did break the 10-percent barrier? Would the president really resign then? Would there be another hullabaloo about whether the prosecution’s announcement of its investigation results would be enough to make the president resign?
If the results show that the president had received less than one-tenth of what the opposition did, would the opposition accept that? Would he still be reviled as a corrupt politician? Would he be accused of pressuring the prosecution to come up with the right answer?
We must find an escape from this “one-tenth game.” We must not put the fate of our country at stake for this “one-tenth game,” and allow the prosecution’s investigation to be used as an election result. Should it indeed come to the situation of the president having to resign over his “one-tenth proposal,” it would bring enormous distress to the country. All government functions would come to a halt, the constitution would be breached, a presidential election would have to be prepared and held in two months and a new government would have to step in.
How could such devastating changes be any help to our national interest? Are any of the parties even one-tenth ready to cope with such a situation? It might sound simple, but a president stepping down in the middle of a term is an enormous problem.
Perhaps President Roh is regretting his words now. It would, however, be difficult for him to withdraw this promise that he personally made to the public. A solution to this problem could be the opposition party playing a “big and constructive” hand to end this ridiculous game. The opposition party should announce that it will not demand the resignation of the president even if his illegal campaign funds do amount up to more than one-tenth of theirs, and ask the president to withdraw this offer. The president would accept, and drop the matter.
A little bit humbling, but wouldn’t this be a better way? The opposition party, too, would be making a mistake if it thought this “one-tenth game” was an opportunity to get back at the president. This is not how legitimate power is gained and lost. Only when both sides approach this situation with bigger and nobler intentions can we find a ray of hope in this dog-eat-dog strife in our political sector. There is one thing, however, that President Roh must do.
He must promptly make public the records of his presidential campaign funds. Unless the president extends this peace offering, there will be no end to this dark tunnel. It is said that firms never admit to bribes they have paid the government then in power. That is also why the prosecution is having such difficulties with its investigation. If President Roh abandoned his former aides to suffer prison sentences while using his power to save his own skin, he would be a cowardly boss.

* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Song Chin-hyok
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