[FOUNTAIN]Scrap hardline views in favor of cooperationThe lawn on the hill between the library and the administration building at Seoul National University is called the Acropolis. In May 1980, about a week before the Gwangju Democratic Movement, about 10,000 students gathered at the Acropolis. The focus of the debate was how student activists would fight against the new military regime led by Security Commander Chun Doo-hwan. The gathering was presided over by Rhyu Si-min, the chairman of Seoul National University’s student council, and Kim Boo-kyum, the representative of the students returning from military service. Student body president Shim Jae-chul concluded the discussion.
If they had thought more prudently, they would have found the blind point of freedom at the Acropolis, but mostly extreme and idealistic opinions dominated the discussion. Hardly any student produced an analysis based on the realistic dynamics of power or proposed calm alternatives.
The students made a series of radical comments. The freedom at an acropolis is often swayed by the unstable mob psychology. The insecure crowd would hoot at the speaker in order to disguise their own cowardice. The speakers have freedom of speech but are psychologically pressured to avoid the ridicule of the crowd. The students gathered at the Acropolis had the hardliner’s complex. The trap of the freedom at an acropolis is that hardliners become more radical in front of the anonymous crowd, and the moderates become silent to a point of cowardice.
The three student leaders of the 1980s have grown into lawmakers with the ruling and opposition parties. They are each categorized differently, some as hardliners and the other as a moderate. We should not be stingy about acknowledging their stints in the student movement in their twenties for they had advocated their beliefs by sacrificing themselves. A third of the lawmakers today have a similar activist background.
However, times have changed, and the former activists are the mainstream at the Assembly. What concerns the people is that they still suffer from the hardliner’s complex. The ruling Uri Party lawmakers are especially trying to appease the anonymous party members and supporters, essentially the crowd of students at the Acropolis. The spirit of the time is not radical and hardline but tolerant and utilitarian.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.