[EDITORIALS]It’s time to settle down

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[EDITORIALS]It’s time to settle down

The controversy over the pro-North Korean professor Kang Jeong-koo is causing a commotion around the country. The prosecutor-general resigned and the justice minister is under pressure to resign. The governing and opposition parties, along with the Blue House, are immersed in a controversy over ideology. The press is also heatedly debating the issue.
Politicians have to take most of the responsibility for the furor; both conservative and liberal parties are seeking political advantage.
A poll by the JoongAng Ilbo suggests how to end this all-consuming debate. The poll found that 88 percent of the respondents do not agree with Mr. Kang’s claims that the General MacArthur statute must be removed and that the Korean War was a war for reunification.
Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said a liberal democracy must be maintained here. But on the question of how to treat Professor Kang, 34 percent wanted an investigation after detention while 31 percent said “investigation without detention.” Another 33 percent saw no need for punishment or prosecution.
If Mr. Kang’s claims were scholarly ideas, the issue could be dealt with by academia. If the professor’s claims were agitation not in the academic realm, we could have just waited for the decision of the prosecutors’ office and the court. But Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae directed the prosecution not to detain the professor.
Mr. Chun thus became the first justice minister to exercise that right, and the issue developed into a political and ideological controversy. The Grand National Party said the national identity is in crisis and the governing Uri Party countered by pooh-poohing the complaint as an ideological attack.
The poll found that 64 percent of people opposed the justice minister’s directive and only 26 percent agreed with it. The poll thus shows that majority of the Korean people do not share the viewpoint of the justice minister, who said that his directive was an effort to protect the human rights of the sociology professor.
It would also be a misunderstanding to think that the people are siding with the Grand National Party. The major opposition party called for the resignation of the justice minister, but the poll found that 53 percent of the respondents said there was no need for that. They outnumber by 37 percentage points the number of respondents who said the minister had to resign.
We also should take precautions against letting the political types put constructions on the poll results to their own advantage.
In particular, Justice Minister Chun should not be encouraged by the fact that those who do not want his resignation outnumber those who do. His responsibility for such a “political act” is clear, and he must not forget that public criticism against his act still is strong.
Politicians have had their fun. They must end this consuming argument. It is now time to calmly watch the prosecutors’ investigation and the judgment of the courts.
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