[FOUNTAIN]The month for champions of democracy

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[FOUNTAIN]The month for champions of democracy

For the champions of democracy and liberty in Korea, April is a month with a special meaning. Forty four years ago, Koreans began a tradition of resisting despotic rule on April 19. The resistance continued until a series of military regimes ended.
The suppressors of the April demonstration claimed that they had to protect the market economy system from the leftist mavericks. The organizers of the demonstrations said they were working to establish democracy and freedom from the corrupt, autocratic and anti-Korean leadership. Ironically, both extremes of the political spectrum pitched the same slogan of protecting democracy and liberty.
After last week’s National Assembly election, many meetings have been held to diagnose what the election result means. A reformist claimed that the election was the conclusion of the citizens’ revolution that had been going on since 1987. A conservative writer said the legislative election actually ended the debate among those who did not want to accept the outcome of the 2002 presidential election.
At any rate, “street fighters,” such as the Democratic Labor Party, joined the legislature not through a revolution but by an election, and the change symbolizes the healthiness of Korean democracy.
Aside from the election, another significant piece of news in April was the itinerary of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who concluded a tour of Northeast Asia with a visit to Korea at the time of the election. After all, Mr. Cheney was a mastermind of the war in Iraq and a famous hardliner toward North Korea.
Right before his tour, The New York Times reported that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had said that he was shown three nuclear devices during a visit to North Korea five years ago. The news would have created quite a stir at another time, but the incident was relatively underplayed.
After Mr. Cheney’s visit, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China and had a summit with President Hu Jintao. No one knows his true intention, but Mr. Kim’s increasingly frequent meetings with foreign leaders could serve as an opportunity for him to develop a sense of diplomacy and trust. Let us hope the dark shadow cast by the economic crisis and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions will vanish like the tear gas that is no longer seen in South Korea in April.

by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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