[INSIGHT]Beyond ‘March for My Beloved’

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[INSIGHT]Beyond ‘March for My Beloved’

The movie “Goodbye Lenin” portrays a human being whose mind was confined to the era of turbulent changes. The movie, set in East Germany, starts with the mother of the protagonist falling into a coma after she suffers a heart attack when her son is taken away by the police at a street riot shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The mother regains consciousness but she is still fragile and her son Alex tries hard to restore her health.
Because the doctors have told him that his mother should not suffer any shock, Alex pretends for her sake that the Berlin Wall hasn’t fallen and that Germany is still divided. With the help of his neighbors and friends, Alex hides the truth of Germany’s reunification from his mother for 8 months. He and a friend even record fake television news programs to give the impression that they are still living under the Honecker government.
One day, his mother miraculously gets up and ventures out into the streets by herself. Berlin has changed drastically. She sees building walls covered with Coca-Cola ads and a downed statue of Lenin being flown out by a helicopter. She is shocked.
Alex again conjures up a tale through the fake television news program that the Berlin Wall has fallen and that West Germans are flooding into East Germany. He pretends that the ideal socialist state that his mother had always dreamed of has finally come true. His mother watches the news with a mysterious but happy smile. She dies soon after.
The day after I saw the movie, I read in an article that the president and governing party legislators cried at a Blue House dinner while singing “A March for My Beloved.” I momentarily fell under the illusion that we were back in the 1980s. “A March for My Beloved” is a song that was composed for the posthumous wedding of Yoon Sang-won, a democracy fighter who was killed in the Gwangju democracy movement, and Park Ki-sun, who worked with Mr. Yoon as a volunteer teacher for laborers but died of suffocation by gas. The lyrics are as follows: “Devoting our love, honor and name all together/We pledged to march our lifetime/ Banners flutter where comrades are gone/Hold fast until the new day arrives/Time may fly/But the river flowing knows/My friend, hold fast until the new day arrives/All you who are still alive, let’s follow, all you who are still alive, let’s follow.”
“A March for My Beloved” was a song that made young people’s blood stir. It was banned in the 1980s but was frequently sung by university students and laborers in their street demonstrations. The young people who sang this song and led the fight for democracy are now elected legislators and guests at the Blue House. The president and many prominent political figures of today were either supporters or comrades of these democracy fighters. It is all moving and heart-warming.
Nevertheless, this should not be taken too far. To hear “A March for My Beloved” sung at a Blue House dinner makes one wonder if the mentality of the “386 generation,” as those who fought for democracy in the 1980s as students are called, is stalled in the days of the Gwangju democracy movement 24 years ago.
The “386 generation” is now in a position of authority. It is now the mainstream of society. For its members to cling to the anti-establishment sentiments of the past when they themselves are the holders of power and responsible for the future of the country is a problem indeed.
In their young days, members of the “386 generation” put distribution above growth, ethnic cooperation above the Korea-U.S. alliance and viewed law and order as something to be defied. Why is there so much insecurity and instability in this government? It is because the “386 generation” members view everything that came before them as something to be destroyed and overcome. In order to get rid of this insecurity and fear, the government needs to look toward the future and not the past.
The “386 generation” must realize that it is the mainstream that is responsible for embracing everyone, conservative or progressive, older or younger, and leading them as one. Before designating everyone else as objects to be eliminated, they must see that they themselves could be the objects of criticism, restraint and, from time to time, elimination. The “386 generation” has consistently been on the opposing side in the past but now it must provide the “thesis” and not the “antithesis.” It must choose the agenda now. It must make things happen, not prevent things from happening. Now that absolute dictatorship has been eradicated, the generation must change its oversimplified perspective of seeing the world as democracy versus anti-democracy. Members must pursue a politics of coexistence and not a black-or-white campaign. The old ideology line of the past cannot be used in this fast-changing world. Now, we must see the bigger world with a practical and global eye.
The “386 generation” must realize that it has to go beyond the level of singing “A March for My Beloved” and that it is its responsibility to make sure that no such sad songs are sung anymore. Only when the holders of power today bid “Goodbye, 386 generation” will the insecurities of our society disappear. Hope for the future instead of regretting the past.

* The writer is the executive editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Young-bin
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