[VIEWPOINT]The government is weak, so get involvedIn a scene frequently seen at social gatherings these days, people usually get into heated debates on the topic of “to hell with Roh Moo-hyun,” but when someone asks, “How much time does he have left in office, by the way?” everyone becomes quiet and the atmosphere gets gloomy.
There has never been a president who didn’t suffer from the lame duck phenomenon toward the end of his term of office. Former presidents suffered the loss of approval ratings and even the disgrace of being driven out of the governing party because they tried, out of political greed, to secure safety from prosecution after retirement, or because of corruption scandals involving their children.
However, although former presidents have been made fun of, even called “vegetable presidents,” none have ever been so totally disregarded as President Roh.
One can say that most of the people have in effect impeached the current administration and are just waiting out its last year, hoping it will fly by quickly.
The best thing to do at this point is to minimize mistakes that may be committed during the rest of the year. If not, there will be a bigger burden for the people when the next administration comes into power.
The next administration already has a heavy burden on its shoulders, due to the side effects of bad policies that the present government pursued toward the United States and North Korea, as well as real estate issues and the confusion it created on education policy.
Who will keep an eye on the nation and manage state affairs during the remaining one year of President Roh?
It is obvious that the current administration cannot and has no ability to do so. There is no point in saying that the current government could do well, if it could only forget about trying to regain power and instead improve personnel management.
People who were close aides to former Presidents Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung when they were in office all said the same thing, that the president gets “extremely shrunken” near the end of his term of office. So the president tries to keep himself surrounded by people he can trust, instead of new faces, since he fears betrayal. He doesn’t even have the strength to tear down the human curtain around him.
Therefore, the order to break away from “the incompetence and arbitrariness of 386 generation-presidential secretaries,” a problem well known to all governing party assemblymen, is nothing but empty talk.
On top of that, what can we expect from a president who says, “In any of the fields in our society, such as politics or economics or society, there is no place where a red light is turned on,” although the economy is down, the governing party suffered from a landslide defeat inthe by-elections, and North Korea tested a nuclear bomb.
The governing party is in the same situation.
There is nothing we can expect from a party that has made up its mind to kill itself today or tomorrow. The governing party has not once shown itself taking responsibility for state affairs in the past three years. Members of the party were simply too busy fighting over whether reform or pragmatism was important and were busy maintaining their personal popularity.
It tossed all responsibility related to the dispatch of troops to Iraq over to the opposition and then sat back, and now it demands that the government present a withdrawal plan for Korean troops deployed in Iraq.
For the members of the governing party, it seems that what is more important is not to be disregarded by progressive forces, rather than diplomatic processes or the national interest.
The only political force that we can count on now is the Grand National Party, but the Grand Nationals are now devoting themselves to attacking the government. It has gone back to square one, although it once showed some spirit after getting humbler and changing for the better after suffering two consecutive defeats in presidential elections.
Rational conservatism has lost its standing and now we are seeing a yo-yo effect of going back to stubborn conservatism. If things go on this way, even if the opposition succeeds in gaining power, it cannot manage state affairs properly.
Of course, it would be too much to ask the opposition party to manage the remaining one year of the current administration. Indeed, the primary role of the opposition lies in checking and criticizing the ruling forces. But what else can we ask of them?
The authority of the government has helplessly collapsed when confronted with the violence of protesters, and the policies announced by the government have been ignored: We are now witnessing an absence of government. Even if we do not agree with the idea of forming a coalition government or a pan-national cabinet, we must prevent the situation from leading to government collapse.
A year and one month is left until the presidential election, and a year and three months until the inauguration of the next president.
If President Roh, the governing party and the opposition all fail to manage the country until then, the people might have to step forward. After all, the Republic of Korea does not belong to any particular administration or party. It is a community where our people, including my family and I, have to live together.
Let’s keep our eyes wide open and be always watchful. Let’s actively write our opinion on the Internet sites of the Blue House and various government departments. Let’s call lawmakers and put them under pressure. Let’s get involved in righting bad policies, even if it is a little bothersome and might cause some loss. This is the only way we can minimize damage that may be inflicted on us in the last year of the administration.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo