[EDITORIALS]A Roh aide’s worrisome talk

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[EDITORIALS]A Roh aide’s worrisome talk

In 1997, there was grave concern in the nation about the economy. Businesses and academia warned of a crisis, and the press strongly criticized the government’s inertia and policy failures. The Kim Young-sam administration and the then-governing party chose to ignore the warnings. Instead of making preparations to forestall an economic crisis, the government was intent on covering up the facts while promoting what a good job it was doing. As a result, South Korea encountered a mammoth financial crisis.
There are worrisome signs that make us wonder whether we may be seeing a repeat of 1997. Lee Joung-woo, presidential policy adviser, recently showed his discontent at the growing criticism of the government and the governing party. Aiming at select press outlets, Mr. Lee said, “They are acting like only they worry about the country.” He went so far as to say, “Let them [the press] probe, and talk.”
As the president’s adviser, Mr. Lee can influence President Roh Moo-hyun’s judgment. For such a figure to strongly argue that “Only I am right,” and express strong hostility toward criticism from outsiders is dangerous. Mr. Lee also said, “While previous administrations meted out economic stimulus measures ahead of elections, we did not do that.” But are the two extra supplementary measures carried out last year, and the debt-relief policy for credit delinquents hastily announced early this year, anything but polices intended to woo voters? If he really believes what he claims, that shows his self-importance.
Businesses and the public want President Roh and the governing party to exercise leadership that will tackle an economic crisis. But presidential aides and leading governing party figures are pouring cold water on these expectations. They castigate the business complaints as “whining,” and proponents of growth as “anti-reformist” forces. Everyone is worried, and the economy remains in the doldrums.
Mr. Lee has confidently said to the critics: “Let’s see [who is right] several years from now.” But now is not the time to subject our economy and the public to an experiment. Who will assume responsibility when we are in a pit? How can we expect the economy to recover when President Roh’s aides are like this?
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