[EDITORIALS]Academic freedom?South Korean society’s identity is under serious threat. A professor, who wrote in a guest book at Mankyongdae, the house where North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung was born, “let’s uphold the Mankyongdae spirit and achieve unification,” now argues that “If you know the true nature of General MacArthur, you would want to destroy his statue immediately.” Recently, there have been demonstrations in Incheon to remove the statue.
Another professor also posted a statement on the Internet site of the National Association of Professors for Democratic Society that said Kim Il Sung was a great modern leader.
By attacking General MacArthur, they confuse the people about the Korean War, started by the North, in which millions of Koreans lost their lives. They even praised Kim Il Sung. Will their next step be a positive evaluation of the Pyongyang regime?
Under the name of academic freedom, they defend themselves from criticism by arguing that a liberal democracy has the capacity for diverse engagement. Of course, a wide range of views exist on General MacArthur and the Korean War. But at issue is that their positions have gone far beyond that of pure academics.
They call General MacArthur “a villain who led to Korea’s separation” and Kim Il Sung “Korea’s great modern leader.” It is too much to say such statements are academic freedom. How can expressions such as “villain,” and “great” be possibly justified as academic terms? Not all statements from university professors are academic.
We need to check if their arguments have any connection. Is it entirely coincidental that such controversial statements came after North Korea declared that this year will be “the origin of U.S. forces’ withdrawal from South Korea”? When the two things are seen separately, they may be small issues, but when they are linked, it is a serious matter.
And yet, the Roh Moo-hyun administration is not checking on the matter carefully, just repeating the mantras of “freedom of expression,” and “freedom of consciousness.” We worry that it may think that “progressive” and “pro-North” are synonyms. Just because we are helping hungry North Korean people and seeking peaceful coexistence with the North does not mean we can give up the Republic of Korea’s identity. We must never accept any pro-Pyongyang activities disguised as academic freedom and civic movements.