[EDITORIALS]Is a tiger changing stripes?Hanchongryon, the Federation of All-Korean University Students, has elected a new leader who has pledged to turn the illegal organization into a legally recognized group. The change of attitude reflects the group’s acceptance of changing times; the new leader pledged to reorganize the federation and open its membership to all university students, regardless of their political affiliation ― or lack thereof ― or membership in activist groups. If he follows through with his plan, there will be a fresh, nonideological breeze blowing on Korea’s campuses. But strong voices demanding the abolition of the National Security Law are still being heard, so we must watch closely how these changes unfold.
Hanchongryon must reflect on its past behavior of advocating the North Korean unification formula and staging violent demonstrations. Based on those reflections, it should change its line and pursue legitimacy. The new government is considering pardons for the group’s leaders, who have mostly gone underground to escape a police manhunt, and is studying conciliatory measures such as health checks and arranged meetings with the leaders’ parents.
But the group should not change its political stripes only because of government inducements and promises of leniency. The fundamental change demanded by the Supreme Court in July, 1998, was that the group abandon activities that aid the enemy. Its platform, which includes echoing the North Korean unification policy, defining South Korea as a colony of U.S. imperialists and saying that the United States as its main enemy should be changed. Only then will the people believe that it has reformed itself.
If Hanchongryon wants a new direction, we wonder if it really needs a nationwide network. The duty of students is to study and do research. They needed a national organization when the social environment here was oppressive, but they do not need it now. And even on the off-chance that a case can be made for a national movement, it should be one centered on campus life. It should help clean up the campuses, promote student rights and foster an academic environment. Violence and mass protests are not the answer.