[OUTLOOK]Now the seniors fight as wellWhen elder statesmen of the conservative camp issued a statement, the elder statesmen of the progressive camp issued an announcement opposing it.
What is happening in the world of elder statesmen is no different from the general flow of our society. Here, too, there is side-taking. Even the elder statesmen are divided in strife; their role has no meaning for us.
These are times when we need the voices of wise men who can heal this divided society. I am a person who agrees with the main line of the announcement given by the conservative elder statesmen. They aptly pointed out the problems that this country has. But there was something left to be desired in their announcement. There could have been a way to win more sympathy.
First, it would have been a good idea if the elder statesmen had included a note of self-criticism before the announcement. Most of those who signed the announcement were those who had ruled and led the country in the past. Had these people done their jobs correctly, this country would not have been divided thus today.
The leftist forces today did not fall suddenly from the sky. They were the forces that grew in the shadow made by the conservatives who ruled this country for 50 years. Who are the ones responsible for the birth of the “386 generation”?
This generation was the by-product of the Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo governments. Before criticizing the 386 generation in their announcement, the conservative elder statesmen should have said, “We were wrong. Had we tried to understand and consider the deprived people, the oppressed people, when we were in power, this country would not be in such strife today. At the time, we had been so intent on going forward that we did not look around to take notice of the dark and poor surroundings. That was what caused strife like we have today.”
In this way, the conservative elder statesmen should have sorted out the wrongs and the rights.
In their statement, the progressive elder statesmen said, “The people who led the oppression of the democracy movement during the dictatorial regimes are behaving shamelessly.” How could we say that everyone who held a government post in the past was an agent for the dictatorial regime? Such a view is no different from the viewpoint of this government on the pro-Japanese collaboration issue. However, it is true that those who obviously had been such agents should have been excluded by the conservatives for the sake of upholding the purity of their announcement.
Another point of regret about the announcements was that signatories did not show any determination to sacrifice something of their own to help accomplish the goal. Would one be sent to prison or tortured for signing an announcement? Signing a statement is easy. However, if there is a premise of self-sacrifice from each and every signatory, the weight of the statement becomes different. The heavens do not accept an offering without sacrifice. The signatories should have made their concern felt in the statement of how they would sacrifice part of themselves to save the country.
The progressive elder statesmen were also a disappointment. It is true that there was a time when they suffered and were oppressed but they have already gotten their rewards in the democratization of the country. Their strong point was in resisting the powerful. The world cannot consist only of those who oppose. Someone has to work. From a historical point of view, their services were but half of the story. To see them wave their past deeds like a badge nowadays is not a pretty sight. It is a mystery why the very people who fought in the name of the people should support the abolition of the National Security Act, an abolition that 80 percent of the people oppose.
Were they fighting for a different people back then? Or is there another reason that they are determined to abolish the National Security Act even in face of the public opposition? It would only be right for elder statesmen to say, “If the people are so worried about the national security, those responsible for the security policies should do something to reassure the public.” They could add, “We spent most of our lives as the opposition, but because of those who worked hard at the time, our country has been able to reach this far. We should acknowledge the services of these people as well.” This would have been an admirable thing for the progressive elder statesmen to do.
What this country needs right now is a generous mind that can acknowledge the other side and understand each other. If the elder statesmen are to lead the way in reconciliation, the country would change. This is possible because of their experience and wisdom. “Having lived thus far, I could realize that we need both conservatives and progressives. We need to forgive each other and move on. If we continue this way, we will all fall.” A true elder statesman would be able to say this.
If there are no such elder statesmen, or if no one listens to such elder statesmen, what would become of this country?
Just as a wise man prophesied in Isaiah 3:4, “And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them,” this country would become one where only capricious children run about.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk