[EDITORIALS]Honors long overdueHonors have been granted to 47 individuals who have been recognized as important figures in the liberation movement against Japanese colonial rule, but who were also socialists. This is the second awarding of such honors, following the one in March, when 54 socialist independence fighters were honored.
The new recipients include such figures as Kim Chul-su, who was secretary of the Chosun Communist Party, and Kim San, whose life was depicted in the novel “Arirang.” Granting these honors is an appropriate way to bring some balance to our history, which has been distorted by ideologies on the right and on the left.
Kim San fought for independence in exile in China; in 1937, he told his story to Nym Wales, whose resulting novel “Arirang” is seen as having played an important role in bringing international attention to the independence issue. Kim Chul-su spent 13 years and eight months in prison under Japanese rule. After liberation, he tried to bring opposing factions together in a joint government with Yeo Un-yeong, another prominent socialist. But Mr. Kim left for the countryside after Mr. Yeo was assassinated.
These men, it must be noted, had nothing to do with establishing the North Korean government. Yet they have been made to dwell in the shadows of history for the sole reason that they were leftists. This was justifiable when the ferocious ideological battle was raging between the North and South. But now, even after 60 years, restoring these people to places of honor is indeed the right thing to do. Rejected by North and South alike, these people have finally found their places in history.
North Korea should have been first to honor them, since they were socialists. But Pyongyang turned a cold shoulder to them because they lost a power struggle with Kim Il Sung. This shows that our society is more mature than Pyongyang’s.
Having seen the success of the Bolshevik revolution, these activists resisted Japan in the name of an independent nation. Syngman Rhee chose to become an ally of the United States. Such choices varied according to the individual and the circumstances of the time. What is clear is that the decision to honor their achievements should not be influenced by a political situation that developed later. Acknowledging the achievements of leftists and rightists alike, with an open mind, only strengthens our legitimacy.