Attacking Foes, Kim Urges Political Stability

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Attacking Foes, Kim Urges Political Stability

President Kim Dae-jung said Thursday that political stability is crucial and that he will "run the country on the right path and rule of law."

"Without democratic principles and rule of law ensured, I cannot strongly lead the government," Mr. Kim said in a 75-minute news conference at the Blue House.

With those words, he signaled a hard line against the opposition as he tackles the current political standoff prompted by a prosecution probe into the funneling of central intelligence agency funds to the former ruling bloc - now the opposition.

"The prosecution will deal with the case according to law," he said.

"The investigation is about a criminal act, not about political funds," Mr. Kim insisted. Disagreeing with the opposition's charge that the investigation is politically motivated, he said the funneling of funds is a misappropriation of the government agency's budget.

"As for myself, I have never received illegal or problematic political funds throughout my political career. Or else I would not be sitting here," he said.

On the engineered defection of four of his Millennium Democratic Party lawmakers to the United Liberal Democrats, the president acknowledged public criticism but dismissed opposition party accusations.

Mr. Kim admitted that the party that "sent" the four lawmakers was not happy either and that he was willing to accept public criticism.

"However, the opposition party did the same thing during the general elections of 1996. They are in no position to criticize us," he said.

The president blasted the opposition at length, saying that in the past three years it has done nothing but trouble him, not cooperate with him.

Political insiders indicated that his attack was a measure of his confidence that the newly refreshed alliance with the United Liberal Democrats will allow him the upper hand in the political arena. Mr. Kim denied there would be further political realignment.

The conference was short of new policies or programs for the remaining half of his tenure.

On the economy, the president appealed to the public to have confidence that reform will lead to revival.

"The economy will recover if we regain confidence," he said, forecasting a soft landing in the second half of the year with an estimated growth of 6 percent.

On North Korean policy, he said he would like to meet with President-elect George W. Bush in Washington soon to discuss new ideas and cooperation on Korean peace.

The president said that the government will pursue the Seoul visit by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, as planned.

However, he continued, the provision of 2 million kilowatts of electricity, a request made by the North and under study by Seoul, will not be a "carrot" to assure the visit.

by Kim Ji-soo

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