[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Wrong hero, he says, if you lionize Syngman RheeI seriously question Byun Sang-keum’s judgment in his opinion piece, “We Need Syngman Rhee” (Nov. 25). Mr. Byun indirectly compares President Roh Moo-hyun’s U.S.-focused diplomacy with that of President Rhee. He contends that Mr Rhee was a “professional” while President Roh is an “amateur.”
He adds: “I miss the insight and acute discernment of the strategist Mr Rhee, who made use of the United Sates half a century ago.” Mr Byun lionizes President Rhee, yet conveniently forgets to add that Mr. Rhee treated his own Korean “government” with contempt, ruling like an absolute dictator, illegally extending his own term, quashing all public and democratic dissent and using force and violence to do so. That’s like saying Saddam Hussein had good diplomatic skills; meanwhile, he tortured anyone who got in his way. Says Harvard professor Carter J. Eckert, in the book “Korea Old and New―A History”: “President Rhee embarked on a campaign of anticommunist witch hunts that eventually affected tens of thousands of people, most of whom had no connection with the Communist Party... The Korean War presented Mr. Rhee with untold opportunities to eliminate suspected leftists and their supporters on an even more massive and brutal scale.”
Mr. Rhee’s downfall ocurred in the spring of 1960, partially due to when the Army fired point-blank into masses of demonstrating students in Seoul, killing 130 of them. From all accounts, Mr. Rhee did nothing positive for Korea during his reign and it is hard to find any Korean with anything good to say about him.
Perhaps Mr. Roh is not an expert yet when it comes to diplomacy, but we all know that Mr. Roh champions human rights, unlike Mr. Rhee. Yet, Mr Byun still admires Mr. Rhee.
by Mark Dake