[VIEWPOINT]Lee needs to detail past errorsThe controversy over the past ideological inclination of Uri Party Representative Lee Chul-woo is a very hot issue. First of all, the issue was raised in a shocking way. “He joined the North Korean Workers’ Party and had been active under cover till now,” was the first statement of the Grand National lawmakers who made the issue public.
However, they have already taken a step back as to how confident they are of the truth of the matter. The Grand National assemblyman who first made an allegation said that phrases such as “spy” or “active under cover” may have been exaggerated.
Although debates over the truth of Mr. Lee’s past activities are ongoing, there are indisputable facts that he had joined and was an active member of an underground organization, Jusapa, that followed Kim Il Sung’s juche ideology, and that his superior in the organization was a man who had gone over to North Korea and become a member of the North Korean Workers’ Party.
Governing party lawmakers of the “386” generation have always brushed aside allegations that they were once democratization protesters who believed in leftist ideas by saying that the allegations were an attempt to taint them to make them look like communists.
A certain lawmaker of the governing party who was a leader of the left-leaning Pan-national University Students’ Association even went so far as to lie and say that “Jusapa, the faction that followed the juche ideology, was fabricated by authorities and the press.”
What is important now is what the assemblyman thinks of his past. Even if he didn’t join the Workers’ Party of the North, it is undeniable that he followed the leadership of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il and participated in the North’s activities intended to “liberate” the South.
Of course trying to dig only into the past is fundamentally a premodern way of thinking. In a premodern society, individuals are not judged by his or her own self, but by factors that have nothing to do with the free will of an individual, such as social status, family and regional background.
However, a democratic society was an epoch-making development that introduced a fair system of evaluating and rewarding individuals according to their acquired efforts for the first time. According to this principle of democracy, the past faults of a person should not be a standard for absolute judgment. A possibility of reform should always remain open, and people should be judged by their present state. Mr. Lee said, “It is true that I read books on Marxism and juche ideology and attempted to use such theories to change our society when I was young.” He then added, “I have dumped all juche ideology theories during the four years I was in prison.”
Koreans belonging to the 386 generation were mentally shocked by the fall of eastern Europe and Soviet Union. It was an obvious end result for people who believed in Marxism, but only a small minority openly criticized themselves whereas the majority of people belonging to the generation had let it go without seriously reflecting on themselves. This is because there was no social pressure. Those belonging to the 386 generation shouted out democratization only, although they believed in Marxism behind closeddoors, evading the law and the anti-communist emotions of the public. As the authoritarian regime yielded to the popular democratization movement in June 1986, people began to think that “left-leaning pro-communists” were the malicious fabrication of those in power.
Just as the saying goes that a group without social pressures becomes immoral, people increasingly left the movement but without reflecting on themselves or thinking about what went wrong with them. Using this gap, Marxists made a wild excuse that its theory was right but its adaptation to reality was wrong. The professor famous for praising the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Lee Young-hee, even blamed the shallow selfishness of people for being unable to accept the truth of socialism.
I myself was once an active member of Jusapa, the faction that followed Kim Il Sung’s juche ideology, and took part in an underground party called the National Democratic Revolution Party, which was directly related with North Korea. I realized the cruel truth about North Korea around 1996 and was able to get out of the long and dark tunnel. If we look at the history of western intellectuals, we can learn that such great masters of liberalism as Friedrich A. von Hayek and Karl Raimund Popper were once infatuated with Marxism. We also learn that literary giant Andre Gide was once deeply absorbed in socialism, but had changed his ideology after his visit to Russia.
The intellectual environment of Korea, where such a wandering of ideologies is considered to be a strange thing, is extremely unintellectual and unjustifiable. Now, as Mr. Lee is a representative of the people, not a mere individual, I hope he will have the courage to speak out his changed views in more detailed and outspoken manner.
* The writer is the policy chief of the Citizens United for Better Society, a non-governmental organization. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hong Jin-pyo