[EDITORIALS]History helps developmentPrime Minister Lee Han-dong remarked recently that National Assembly hearings in 1988 on the performance of the Chun Doo Hwan administration had hindered national growth. He is now being roundly criticized for a lack of historical perspective. In a speech delivered Wednesday, Mr. Lee posed a question: "What stopped South Korea's growth, which was on a steep upward curve after the 1988 Olympics? The National Assembly hearings that October to air past administrations' mistakes swept the nation into a frenzy, negating the overwhelming success of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games" that could have spurred growth. "That was folly we committed ourselves," he concluded.
He explained after the speech that his intent was to highlight the positive aspects of the 1988 Olympic Games rather than denigrate the significance of the Assembly hearings. To some extent, it is true that the frenzy of the hearings did harm the national energy generated by the games. But his criticism that the hearings hindered national growth illustrates a lack of the sense of history that a prime minister should have. History embodies both mistakes not to be repeated and examples to emulate. Ignoring past mistakes or whitewashing them hinders the growth of a sense of history.
The prime minister, a veteran politician, served as secretary general and floor leader of the ruling Democratic Justice Party during the Chun and Roh administrations. He is now Kim Dae-jung's prime minister, and Mr. Kim's Democratic Party for Peace pushed strongly for the 1988 hearings. We doubt strongly that Mr. Lee intended to attack the president, so we presume that Mr. Lee was trying to stress that Korea should not overlook another opportunity for growth, the 2002 World Cup, because of the spate of ongoing financial scandals. We can discern that the prime minister was trying to convey the message that it would be unwise to let past corruption cases hold us back from another important chance for national prosperity. But rooting out corruption is just as important a task as national prosperity for national development. Whatever his true intentions, the prime minister should keep that point in mind.