[FORUM]The Uri Party’s scarlet letter“Strike down Kim Il Sung! This is Corporal Heo of the signal corps.”
In the military, during the mid-1970s, that was how the telephone had to be answered. Corporal Heo, whose duty obliged him to receive and make numerous calls, struck Kim Il Sung down many times by himself.
This same Kim Il Sung now awaits an exuberant resurrection. According to the bill recently introduced by the Uri Party, it is alright to write a biography of Kim Il Sung online, praise his juche philosophy or drive around with a North Korean flag on one’s car.
For a long time, Kim Il Sung was hailed as a “great leader” in student dens in Korean universities. He was said to be a “leader who saved our national spirit through an autonomous line, based on a strict judgment of pro-Japanese and anti-Korean activities and a rejection of foreign influences.” This Kim Il Sung is now about to emerge from the student dens to march in the streets of South Korea in grand style.
While it is unclear whether the bill will pass in the face of vigorous opposition, this does not lessen the significance of the fact that the governing party has, in fact, introduced a pro-North Korean bill. Apparently, South Korean society is affluent enough to invite Mr. Kim and North Korea into our courtyard. This is historic.
In addressing the concern that supplementing the criminal code to replace the National Security Law, as the Uri Party proposes, would be insufficient to punish espionage, the Uri Party has explained in detail that the law against high treason covers that. The Uri Party retorts, why not accept Kim Il Sung, the North Korean flag and the juche philosophy now?
Is our society indeed so secure? This comes as a shock to a member of the generation that used to talk of striking down Kim Il Sung, who was born during the Korean War and instilled with anti-communism from childhood. It is hard to accept, and it resurrects the fear of being taken over by the North. Once the doubts start to rise, one after another, one begins to question the identity of the government and the governing party as well.
I asked a “386 generation” legislator who was key to introducing the bill, “Are you trying to locate the legitimacy of our people in the Kim Il Sung regime and pursue reunification on that line?” He denied it vigorously. “Democracy has won a clear victory. The battle of regimes is over.” The bill, he said, is an effort to set history right, born of confidence in our system and an effort to bring down the wall beween North and South.
I was still unconvinced ― the more so because certain “386 generation” members have alleged that hard-core juche followers, people who based their principles on broadcasts from the Korean People’s Democratic Front, form the majority of the present government and are still unrepentant. If the abolition of the National Security Act is achieved by juche followers, what more is there to be said?
The “386” legislators protested these allegations. “The people who make us look like juche followers have converted themselves, and are now trying to put a cover of ideology on those of us who had participated purely in student movements.” They emphasized, “We are not socialists and, moreover, we do not support the North Korean line.”
That is a relief. If it’s true, then there is only one thing that I’d like to ask of the “386 generation” in the government and the governing party. The 70 percent and more of the public who oppose the abolition of the National Security Act are suspicious of the political intent behind it. The government and the Uri Party must defuse such suspicion. They must show that they are not supporters of the North Korean line, but protectors of democracy. They must get rid of the scarlet letter attached to them.
Until now, the “386 generation” has talked incessantly about the peaceful co-existence of North and South. However, they have refrained from saying how they view the dictatorial and nepotistic regime of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il, or the human rights situation in the North. If they truly agree that the regime is wrong, they must deal with these core issues.
If only to dispel the “strike down” generation’s suspicion of its left-leaning tendency, the “386” lawmakers need to show their true colors. Only then can a genuine debate on the security measures to follow the abolition of the National Security Act be possible.
* The writer is the chief of the JoongAng Ilbo’s editorial page.
by Heo Nam-chin