[EDITORIALS]End justifies the means?A panel organized to compensate and restore the honor of people involved in democratization movements has decided that more than 1,100 former school teachers and 46 people who took part in an incident at Dong-eui University in 1989 had made a contribution to the nation's democratic movement. We are concerned that a recapitulation of our past might reflect political bias.
The former members of the Korea Teachers' and Educational Workers' Union brought fresh ideas into education with their struggle in the 1980s against the authoritarian tradition in education and with the call for a return to the original spirit of teaching. The pain and suffering of more than 1,400 dismissed teachers is understandable. But we question whether their activities outside the classroom and the demand for a teachers' union and for their rights as workers were justifiable under the law and in the minds of the people. If they can be justified, then what about the tactics of government unions today that have been determined illegal?
The decision on the former Dong-eui University students is even more preposterous. The students were protesting for the release of detained classmates and took five riot police officers hostage in the campus library. Seven police officers died and 10 were injured. Thirty-one people who led the demonstration were convicted and sentenced to up to life in prison.
The committee said the homicides were unintentional and the use of Molotov cocktails was customary in demonstrations at the time.
Molotov cocktails are a tool to injure and kill. Can they be permitted even when the goal of the protest is justifiable? How do we stop violent demonstrations that jeopardize law and order?
The committee's deliberations were reported to be stormy; disagreements led to the resignations of three of its members and a split vote on the decision. Any evaluation of the democratic movement is bound to be subjective and affected by the ideology of the government in power. For that reason, such a project should be entrusted to the National Assembly for sufficient deliberation and a broader range of input, rather than placed in the hands of the Prime Minister's office.