[FOUNTAIN]The turning point for presidents“Star Wars: Episode III― Revenge of the Sith,” in theaters now, is a movie about power and politics with an outer-space setting. Environments may change, but the nature of power seems not to.
The lead character, Anakin Skywalker, is unfamiliar with the ways of power at first. But when it whispers to him that he can prevent his wife’s death by embracing it, he does so. To this point, power had been a means for good, but once he passes that crucial point, he becomes addicted to it. Power becomes its own purpose.
In the five-year term of a Korean president, the third year is when he fully realizes the nature of power. It is no longer unfamiliar; it is more like a sword he has used for a long time. Power becomes its own justification, and he begins to worry that it will slip away.
Former President Roh Tae-woo decided in his third year, in 1990, to unite the three parties. He had received only 37 percent support in the presidential election, and the governing party was in the minority in the National Assembly. In the face of enormous struggle among interest groups, he was uncertain of holding onto power for his full five years, and concentrated on keeping it.
In 1995, the third year of President Kim Young-sam’s term, he had former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo arrested. Confident in his power base, he pushed the Gwangju Special Law, despite criticism that it was retroactive. But behind these events was the snowballing balance of payments deficit, an omen of the financial crisis. Mr. Kim used his power for politics, not for what was needed.
The third year of President Kim Dae-jung’s term, 2000, was highlighted by the summit with North Korea. He must have thought that the weakness of his coalition with the Liberal Democrats could be overcome through this historical event. But he was defeated in the general election, the coalition broke and corruption scandals started to emerge.
In President Roh Moo-hyun’s third year, he faces disbelief and dissolution. Looking back at former presidents’ third years, it seems the solution does not lie in political events or the strengthening of power. Power must be used to revive the economy and address poverty.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.