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Let's Look Back on the Past Five Years
  • Shin Dong-kyu and Park Min-hee
  • 승인 2002.12.06 14:20
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There will be the 16th Presidential Election on Dec. 19 of this year. Thus, Korea will have a new president and President Kim Dae-jung's regime will go the way of history. Kim's regime was the result of the ruling party changing from Grand National Party (GNP) to Millenium Democratic Party (MDP) in 1998. Although, at that time, the Korean economy was very gloomy under the control of International Monetary Fund (IMF), a lot of Koreans expected that the new regime would make the economy recover. According to the Sept. 20, 2001 edition of Joongang Ilbo, the rate of support for the Kim regime reached 70.8 percent in Feb of 1999 and 70.1 percentage in June of 2000 when there was the inter-Korean summit. However, the rate steeply dropped to 19.1 percentage in Sept. of 2001 and the regime has been a lame duck since early 2002. What caused this? Most of the Korean press evaluated the achievements of the regime in its final months. There are both praise and blame. The aim of this article is not only to explain why the regime is a lame duck but also to find out if it reached its true political goals. The Dongguk Post wanted to listen to DU student opinion through a survey on Nov. 19, 2002...................................................................Ed.

[Part1] Economy
1. What do you think about the performance of the Korean economy during President Kim's regime?
① Income gap was widened between the rich and the poor. (24.84 %) ② Korea's economic condition was better than other countries that underwent an economic crisis. (42.04 %) ③ It was still not good. (31.85 %) ④ Other (1.27 %)

2. It is very difficult for university seniors to get a job. What is the reason?
① Because Korea's economic condition has been not good since the economic crisis. (38.85 %) ② Because President Kim failed to realize his economic policy. (18.47 %) ③ Because of the economic crisis all over the world (33.12 %) ④ Other (9.55 %)

3. The Korean IT industry was developed through the support of venture companies. What do you think about this effect on the Korean economy?
① Economic conditions have improved. (4.46 %) ② It was only a bubble. (64.97 %) ③ I don't know. (7.01 %) ④ It had good effect on IT industries' growth. (22.29 %) ⑤ Other (1.27 %)

4. President Kim was committed to restructure insolvent enterprises. What do you think about the result?
① It was useless. (10.83 %) ② There was little effect. (12.74 %) ③ Good. (8.92 %) ④ Restructuring was faced with limits. (49.04 %) ⑤ It was only copying western economic restructuring style. (18.47%)

The results of survey numbers 1, and 2 reveal that most DU students think that the Korean economy is still in bad shape, although its condition is better than other countries that underwent IMF control.
The income gap between the rich and the poor has not narrowed at all and the unemployment rate of young people is very high. According to Ohmynews report, 20 percent of the upper class income was 4.74 times bigger than the lower class income in 1997, 5.40 times in 1998, 5.19 times in 2000, and the difference between them went up to 5.5 times in 2001. These figures show that the income gap widened between the rich and the poor again. Hangureh also pointed out that 10 percent of the upper class income increased by 14.2 percent, but 10 percent of the lower class income decreased by 5.1 percent for four years after the economic crisis. Also, the unemployment rate for those between age 20-29 was 7 percent in 2001, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Financial firms, public enterprises, and 30 of nation's top conglomerates cut employment from 1,526,000 to 1,237,000 workers. Especially, 30 of nation's top conglomerates decreased students' employment from 903,000 to 702,000 jobs. Since 1996, college graduated students' employment rate sharply dropped from 65 percent to 20 percent. This shows that employment circumstances got worse. However, only 18.47 percent said President Kim failed to realize his economic policy. It means that most students think that he isn't responsible for current economic conditions.
Many in the press underestimated Kim's efforts in the IT field and with restructuring insolvent conglomerates. Nowadays, venture industries are undergoing a very difficult situation. Most students recognized Kim's trial but said that there were insufficient output. Only 4.46 percent and 8.92 percent of respondents praised him about IT and restructuring.

[Part 2] Policies of Welfare & Labor
1. Did the Kim's government make efforts to solve unemployment problems?
① There were many efforts but they didn't work well. (31.85 %) ② Kim's efforts were just impracticable. (54.14 %) ③ The Government worked hard. (8.28 %) ④ The problems were solved completely. (2.55 %) ⑤ Other (3.18 %)

2. What is your opinion about the government's efforts for welfare of laborers, people's residence, and reduction of farmers and fishermen's debts?
① Kim regime didn't devote itself to solve these problems. (21.02 %) ② Nothing was improved. (59.24 %) ③ Kim's regime worked hard to solve these problems. (12.74 %)  ④ Other (7.01 %)

3. The separation of a pharmacy from its clinic was a controversy in Korean society. What do you think about this medical reform program?
① The government implemented this program for the nation. (5.73 %) ② It was just theory. (26.75 %) ③ It was too early to implement this program. (54.14 %) ④ It wasn't suitable for Korea. (11.47 %) ⑤ Other (1.91 %)

Before Kim Dae-jung became President, he was a famous political dissident who worked for labor and the weak. So, Korean labor entertained great expectations for Kim's welfare and labor policies. What are most Korean's opinions about these five years later?
The government tried to overcome the economic crises of 1997. Especially, they made efforts to solve welfare problems related to unemployment. According to Chosun Ilbo, "Korean business was improved through Kim's efforts." However, a professor at Ewha Univeristy said in HanKook Ilbo, "Kim's regime implemented new policies based on neo-liberalism. So, the gap between the rich and poor deepened and it caused mass unemployment." Problems of university students' employment were especially a hot issue. About 86 percent of DU students showed negative attitudes to welfare & labor policies including employment policies.
The controversy over the separation of pharmacy and clinic was a hot potato in Korean society. Fifty-four percent of DU students, however, replied in the affirmative about this issue.

[Part 3] Unification & Foreign Policy & National Defense
1. What do you think about Kim's diplomacy toward the four countries around Korea?
① It is still influenced by powerful countries. (39.49 %) ② It acted independently in dealing with North Korea problems. (18.47 %) ③ It is too early to estimate his policy. (36.94 %) ④ Other (5.10 %)

2. What do you think about the government's effort for reducing tensions between the two Koreas; for example, support to North Korea, reunion of separated families, and increase of association?
① It was desirable and must be continued. (34.39 %) ② It seems that South Korea was pulled by North Korea. (40.13 %) ③ The government should stop its sunshine policy if North Korea tries to threaten us. (10.19 %) ④ The government needs to keep friendly relations with North Korea and make more efforts to improve it. (11.46 %) ⑤ Other (3.82%)

3. Some skirmishes happened around Yeon Pyeong island in the Yellow Sea. What do you think about the attitude of the government on this?
① People didn't worry because of the sunshine policy. (13.38 %) ② Sunshine policy is not preparing our national defense. (38.22 %) ③ Regardless of the skirmishes, the relation with North Korea is better than before. (44.59 %) ④ Other (3.82 %)

Most of the Korean press sharply criticized Kim's policies of unification and diplomatic relations. Especially, they insisted that the sun shine policy was not clear and is wrong. The Editor-in-chief of Monthly Chosun said, "Kim Dae-jung absolutely obeys Kim Jung-il. President Kim withdrew military from cease-fire line. It is incredible. His comments threaten our nation."
DU students had various opinions about these policies. Forty-five percent of respondents replied in the affirmative about these policies, but thirty-eight percent of them had negative viewpoints on the policies. The negative said that the government read North Korea's face too much.
After the inter-Korean summit in 2000, Korean people were encouraged by seeing many separated families meeting each other. But many DU students still had negative opinions about the unification policy although the relationship between South and North has softened.

[Part 4] Field of Politics & Administration

1. All Koreans put political reform in the top priority. What do you think about Kim's effort about this?
① It was formal and of no use. (40.76 %) ② The government tried but reached its limitation. (46.5 %) ③ The government made efforts in its own way. (7.64 %) ④ Other (5.1 %)

2. President Kim made efforts for the minority by establishing National Human Rights Commission, and Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Death. However, some problems still happen like human rights problem of illegal entrants and oppression of the Daewoo workers. What do you think about his policies for the minority?
① It was formal and of no use. (41.4 %) ② The government tried but reached its limitation. (40.13 %) ③ The government made efforts in its own way. (15.29 %) ④ Other (3.18 %)

3. Lots of corruption were revealed about Kim's government. What do you think about this compared with the past regime?
① It became worse than before. (7.64 %) ② It was better than before. (19.11 %) ③ There was no difference compared with the past regime. (54.14 %) ④ It was beyond their capability to get rid of corruption. (14.65 %) ⑤ Other (4.46 %)

After Kim Dae-jung was elected the 15th President, the MDP, which had been the opposition party, had political power for the first time. Korean people expected that President Kim would carry out a reformation of Korean politics. Kim's regime tried to reform politics but failed because of large-scale interference by the opposition party. And President Kim was faced the difficulties of his two sons' monetary scandals. Although he underwent difficult conditions, he did try to work for the minority. So, the government made the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Chosun Ilbo has criticized authoritarianism of Chung Wa Dae. "The NHRC calls itself an independent government organization, despite there being no such entity in the Constitution. The commission claims it is independent because it is not governed by any of the ministry laws. The fact that it is not backed by the Constitution, or covered by any of the pertinent government laws shows how tenuous its position is."
Even the progressive press points out the regime's problem. Omynews, said, "Kim's regime has to transfer its authority to local governments."
Eighty-seven percent of DU students recognized the efforts of Kim's regime. But, they answered that his reformation of politics failed. DU students also had expectations about reformation of politics after the new regime began, they thought it failed again. Fifty-four percent of DU students thought that political corruption was the same as in past regimes. But, 19 percent of DU students insisted that Kim's regime was more transparent than past regimes.

[Part 5] Policies about Education & Culture & Woman

1. There are lots of pros and cons about Kim's policies on education such as BK21 (Brain Korea 21). How do you evaluate his policies on education?
① Their purpose were worthy even though he failed to get good results. (15.29 %) ② They were good in themselves but didn't consider the reality, which resulted in some side effects. (42.68 %) ③ They are worthy policies but need correcting. (26.11 %) ④ They were conducted at the sacrifice of people. (14.01 %) ⑤ Other (1.91 %)

2. President Kim organized Ministry of Gender Equality in 2001 and also strengthened the system supporting his feminism policy. But males ran against his policy including Obligatory Employing Female Officials. What's your opinion about this issue?
① There were remarkable improvements in women's rights. (7.01 %) ② It is a stepping stone to more improvements. (43.95 %) ③ It had a reverse effect on males. (22.93 %) ④ It was of no use for improving women's rights. (24.20 %) ⑤ Other (1.91 %)

Kim's regime made new attempts at improving education and woman policies. Especially, the whole nation is concerned about education policy. But according to journals, there were lots of negative views about Kim's new education policies. There are various criticisms about the national college entrance exam, and complaints at the degree of difficulty of the national college entrance exam. Also, forty-three percent of DU students showed dissatisfaction about Kim's policy of education. DU students insisted that the way of his education policies were good, but Kim's administration needed more details to backup those policies. They think that Kim's regime has to decrease negative side effects if it wants the plans to be successful.
Kim's regime made efforts to improve women's status. For instance, "Ministry of Gender Equality" was newly-organized by Kim in 2001. And President Kim nominated Chang Sang to be the first woman prime minister in Korea. HanKook Ilbo said, "Kim's policy for women policy was pretty good. So, the 16th presidential candidates have to follow the basic tone of Kim's policy."
Though one-fourth of DU students think that the status of women is still not better than before, and 44 percent felt that it started to raise human rights of women in Korea. It is clear that Kim's regime has made efforts to raise the status of women.

 <Conclusion>
 The Post dealt with President Kim's policies by dividing them into five sections. The press and DU students had different opinions on some his policies. However, Kim's regime hasn't ended yet. History will judged Kim's regime after the 16th presidential election. The Post hopes that university students will be better educated to select one of the 16th presidential candidates after reading this Cover Story.

Shin Dong-kyu and Park Min-hee  korea232@dongguk.edu

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