[FORUM]A balanced view of historyThe Roh Moo-hyun administration is determined to dig out past faults. The idea and scale are staggering.
The scale is huge, incomparable to the Kim Young-sam administration’s move to correct the history of the “12-12 military coup d’etat” by former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo. The present government is attempting to deal intensively with complicated and controversial issues of history during the last century, since the Donghak Struggle of 1894.
The second national building task, under the Kim Dae-jung administration, was carried out carefully. The administration was careful not to meddle with the essential area of historical study while making a leftist interpretation regarding modern history.
The Uri Party appears ready to make a dash without hesitation, holding the flag called a national project. Could it be because the party must heighten tension and widen the battlefield to restore the effect of the remedies that were tediously used under the two Kim administrations?
Under the Roh administration, it seems hard to expect that our society will be run quietly. Could it be at ease when the administration is trying to dig out and revive the enmity, ghosts, conflicts and hatred lying asleep in the ill-fated graves of history? Even if the Uri Party attaches to the task a plausible name called “truth, reconciliation and future,” the essence of its being a tedious war against the past does not change.
The majority of the people plead that the administration should change its priority to take care of their difficult livelihood. But there is no knowing whether such pleading will be accepted. In the present administration’s attempt to reconstruct history lies its ambition to reorganize our society according to its own content, constitution and physiology.
Did the administration judge that the reevaluation of modern and contemporary history would be of help in disintegrating the existing order? It seems to believe that historical reinterpretation is effective in dividing the people anew and lining them up on its side.
Wrong history should be corrected under any administration. Dishonor should be avenged and dignity should be restored. But such a task should be handled by qualified entities. It requires a balanced view of history that can discern merits and faults. But the historical consciousness of the administration, which holds the sword of tracing the past, makes the hearts of the people uneasy. It is natural to feel that way upon seeing the administration conduct “human laundering” of turning former spies and partisans into democratic fighters.
Above all, it is an absurd mistake to take pride in handling matters that the previous administrations could not do properly. The majority of the people are accustomed to the controversy over pro-Japanese activities and have a broad view on the issues. They are indignant at the disorganization and frustration of the Special Committee on the Activities Against the Nation, which tried to convict pro-Japanese figures. Still, they tried to distinguish the merits and faults of their entire lives concerning the controversy over the pro-Japanese pioneers like Kim Sung-soo.
The Uri Party says that the dark remnants of the Yushin era should be cleansed. But long ago, the people had already performed such a cleansing. Is it nothing other than the cleanup of the Yushin to have chosen Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung as presidents? Therefore, the bragging of the governing party underestimates the sense of historical judgment and justice of ordinary citizens.
Most people made an effort not to lose a balanced sense of history. They have not forgotten that for a proper democracy, the economy should be sound. The New Village Movement in the 1970s and the passion for industrialization, which drove our people to earn money in the deserts of the Middle East and enhanced our status to a developing country, laid the ground for democratization in the 1980s.
What is the wisdom of history? It is to take an attitude of learning a lesson from the faults of an age and make use of achievements to open the future. This wisdom made Korea the best success case among the newly emerged countries after World War II.
But the historical approach of the present administration clings to the dark side. Judging the past by today’s yardstick is like chasing after illusions. History reevaluated according to the logic and inclination of those in power is bound to be distorted.
The people will watch how the ruling party’s reconstruction of history goes on and warn when necessary. They would not leave the situation alone if the past history is rewritten in the language of those in power at the present time.
*The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of political news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyoon