[OUTLOOK]Safeguard MacArthur’s statue

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[OUTLOOK]Safeguard MacArthur’s statue

President Roh Moo-hyun’s comment on the issue of whether to demolish the statue of General Douglas MacArthur is very vague. He avoids making an evaluation of General MacArthur and the contributions he made to South Korea. The core of the problem lies in how people evaluate the Incheon Landing. From the North Korean or pro-North Korean point of view, General MacArthur was the archenemy who prevented South Korea from becoming communist. But from the point of view of the people who love the Republic of Korea, he was the great benefactor who saved the country. Yet for some unknown reason the president refrained from making public his view on the matter.
All that he said was, “We should not manage South Korea-U.S. relations in the manner of taking down the statue.” The issue at hand is whether defending the freedom and democracy of South Korea was right or not. But he fails to say anything about it and just tells people not to take down the statue because it is bad for relations with the United States. He told people what strategy to follow without explaining the principles. The president, who swore an oath to observe the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, should, whoever he might be, state firmly, “We must not tear down the statue of a person who defended the freedom and democracy that the Constitution defines as the political ideology of our country.”
A few days after he made the remark, President Roh delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly. The part of his address that attracted the attention of the audience most was: “The world must completely divest itself of mindsets and vestiges reminiscent of imperialistic tendencies that appear to linger in various forms.” Why did he bring up the issue of imperialism that dates back 100 years in this modern age? Is there a link between his mention of imperialism and his tactical reaction to the issue of General MacArthur’s statue?
The imperialism theory in the study of international relations is the theoretical frame that communism used to define international relations. It was started by Karl Marx, but later reshaped by Vladimir Lenin and was settled as a foreign policy of communist countries until the 1970s. Communists thought that paradise on earth could only be achieved at home when the working class overthrew the rich upper class, and when it came to international relations, they thought that world peace could only be achieved when communist countries overthrew capitalist countries.
Monopolistic capitalist countries need colonies for resources for production and consumer markets, and so they pursue imperialism and that in turn becomes a reason for war. This is an inevitability theory that as long as there are capitalist countries in the world, there will be no end to war.
However, the history that unfolded after the theory proved that the imperialism theory was wrong. World War I was started because of the rivalry between the United Kingdom and Germany, but World War II was a war where the communist Soviet Union and capitalist allies the United Kingdom and the United States joined forces to fight against Hitler.
What is even more ironic was that the Soviet Union, which criticized imperialism, made Eastern Europe into satellite states and even used military force in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Western European countries criticized the Soviet Union for being an imperialist country itself. All in all, imperialism turned into a political slogan used by communists.
After Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader, the imperialism theory changed its name to “national liberation war.” It was a strategy to keep third world countries under the influence of communism. The only country in the world that still remains in this national liberation war is North Korea. From the North Korean point of view, General MacArthur was the person who stopped national liberation, and the U.S. Forces in Korea were the imperialist troops that stopped national liberation. That is why they shout out, “Down with U.S. imperialists!”
The attempt to take down the statue of General MacArthur probably came from the same context. Leading members of the governing party probably praised the action of those who tried to remove the statue by saying that “their pure mind of nationalism is admirable,” because they proclaim the liberation of the Korean people from imperialism. I wonder whether the reason President Roh reserves his evaluation of General MacArthur derives from the same understanding with them.
Actually, the country that proved that the national liberation theory and the dependency theory, which are rooted in imperialism, are wrong is the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In view of the national liberationists or dependency theorists, South Korea is a country that the monopolistic capitalist country, the United States, would exploit. How could a country with a per capita income of less than $100 become the world’s 12th-ranked trading country in less than 50 years, and become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)?
If the United States exploited us, we should have become poorer. However, the opposite has happened. Not only the third world countries but even China and Russia, which supported national liberation wars at one point, are now busy trying to learn about South Korea. How did the leaders of the world feel when the president of such a successful country talked about imperialism at the UN meeting? It is quite embarrassing indeed.
We don’t care what the theory is. What matters is the reality. Forces that want to start an anachronistic national liberation war are starting to flutter in South Korea belatedly. The end of their struggle for national liberation is plain to see.
Yet the current government does not take any preventive measure. I wonder why. This is the reason why the people really need to wake up now. I send my warm applause to the veterans and freedom-loving people who are guarding the statue of General MacArthur at the Freedom Park in Incheon with all their might. It is because we are in reality where we have to defend the freedom we enjoy with our own hands.

* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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