[VIEWPOINT]The Roh-Kim partnership has failed

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[VIEWPOINT]The Roh-Kim partnership has failed

Deputy Prime Minister of Education Kim Byong-joon has finally resigned from the post. Although he responded to the scandal over his duplicated research papers by saying it was a common “practice” in the academic world, he cannot be acquitted of wrongdoing even if that is true. Mr. Kim was a “reform missionary” of the Roh Moo-hyun administration. A reformer stops wrong customs and practices. Therefore, Mr. Kim’s excuse that it was a common “practice” goes against his own self-proclaimed mission.
It is a problem that he plagiarized some of his papers, but there is a bigger concern. It is related to the history of the Republic of Korea. The present administration has accomplished a number of achievements, such as dismantling the remnants of authoritarianism, strengthening the independence of law enforcement authorities and promoting clean politics. But it has committed repeated mistakes in substantial sectors such as diplomacy, inter-Korean relations, the integration of South Korean people, the revisionistic evaluation of our modern history and some important domestic policies.
As a result of such failures, the government and Uri Party suffered a crushing defeat in the May 31 local elections. The reasons lie largely in President Roh’s views about history, the world and society at large. Mr. Kim has had a big influence on the president’s way of thinking and has been in close touch with him for a long time. Therefore, Mr. Kim is responsible for the administration’s mistakes to a large degree.
In 1993, one year after Mr. Roh was defeated in the 14th general election, Mr. Kim, a professor at Kookmin University, was studying local autonomy and was active in a civic group, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice. He used to give lectures at the research institute established by the former lawmaker Mr. Roh and studied on practical matters related to local autonomy. Mr. Kim recalled that, “I thought that it was an institute in name only, because it was established by a politician, but it had a real entity, as its name ‘practical matters’ suggests.” He also said, “I thought that Mr. Roh had the fortune of having good friends around him and I saw that his aides worked with dedication.”
The two shared a common view on many things related to the country and history. Soon, Mr. Roh became the chairman of the institute and Mr. Kim assumed the post of its director. Thus, the solidarity between Mr. Roh and Mr. Kim was born. Mr. Kim said, “My ties with President Roh are based on common ideas rather than human relations.” He explained that he shared with the president the same philosophies on local autonomy, decentralization and ideas on the economy.
Not only their thoughts, but their family backgrounds were similar. Mr. Kim was from a poor family, as was Mr. Roh. His poor family background and the economic difficulties under which he was brought up made his ties with Mr. Roh stronger.
In a sense, therefore, the failure of the administration can be said to be the failure of solidarity between Mr. Roh and Mr. Kim. Mr. Kim has designed a large part of the road map of this administration. Together with Mr. Roh, he dreamed of building an administrative capital and imagined innovative cities. After Mr. Roh assumed power, he took care of such important government policies as real estate, taxes and government reform. But the transfer of the central government agencies from the capital city was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court and even city planners are skeptical of the idea of building innovative cities. There are not so many people who believe an administration-centered complex city will work properly. The only effect of the big fuss over the plan to transfer money out of Seoul to build an administrative capital has been price of land skyrocketing nationwide. Mr. Kim once asked me whether I knew the reason why Mr. Roh had never lost a fight. Then, he answered himself, “it is because he is going in the same direction as the values of the future and history.” He is right. Mr. Roh has won a lot of fights. But, unfortunately, he was defeated in his biggest battle, administering the government as president. The defeat on May 31 marked people’s judgment that the direction he was pursuing was not right.
When he was the policy chief of the Blue House, Mr. Kim once said that it was “a good experience, for an academic, to command the government’s overall policies.” As he said, he played a big game.
But he was defeated. Mr. Kim should have withdrawn from the government right after the local elections in a clean manner. Instead he said, “We are going in the right direction. I have conviction.” And then, he rushed to be the deputy prime minister of education. His biased convictions have brought this tragedy to him.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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