[OUTLOOK]Our bruised and beaten countryWhat symbolizes a country? For Korea, Taegeukgi, its national flag, and Arirang, the country’s most popular folk song, are its symbols. If the founders of a country were great, those figures become the symbols of the country.
The founders of the United States are respected and regarded as the nation’s symbols. The U.S. citizens care for their presidents’ figures on Mount Rushmore in this respect.
Soldiers are also symbols of a country. They have sworn to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their country and to defend the country’s borders. Citizens can live safely inside the borders, while having their assets, lives and human rights effectively protected.
When citizens fight with one another, that is a fight of “us,” the people on the same side.
However, outside the border, there is no longer an “us”. Soldiers defending the border are a precondition for our existence. A decent country does not neglect even one soldier’s life and to them a soldier’s life is as important as the country itself.
When the remains of a soldier are found after a decade, such a country would conduct a grand funeral for the soldier, because it believes the soldier’s death is directly related to the country.
In this respect, the recent violent clashes in Pyeongtaek should not be dealt with in a lukewarm way as has been done. Soldiers were beaten and stabbed by protesters. This is not only about our children who went to the army and ended up being beaten. It means that our country itself has been beaten and stabbed. The Defense Minister ordered the soldiers and police, “Even when beaten, do not react.” Our country was beaten and bruised by protesters with bamboo sticks without defending itself.
“No violent rallies are allowed,” said the president after our country was beaten, then he left the country for summit meetings.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ordered judges to punish convicted businessmen “in the name of citizens.” He pressed judges to severely punish them, saying that less severe punishment for businessmen had caused ordinary people to feel discriminated against. The same person, however, has said nothing about the court that released 70 percent of the protesters. Why does not he push these judges to judge “in the name of citizens?” Who does he refer to when he says “citizens?”
What the prime minister said is even worse. “Every person involved should take a step backwards and return to calm,” she said. Perhaps in the eyes of the prime minister, soldiers and protesters are the same. She does not seem to understand what soldiers being beaten means.
The opposition party also seems to be out of its mind. It has issued no statement on this matter yet. A motion for dismissal of the defense minister should have been made by now. All these people listed above are leaders of our country.
It is wrong to view this incident as an ordinary one, regarding it as a protest for farmers’ rights or human rights. The core of this incident is related to the existence of this country. Those who used violence did not acknowledge our country. They vigorously protested in an effort to tear it down. Perhaps their country is different than ours.
They mention the May 18 Gwangju massacre. However, the military leaders who committed atrocities have already been punished. Why then do these people keep trying to dishonor the army? They hung a flag that features the peninsula, instead of the national flag, and sang Arirang, instead of the national anthem. They must have another country in their minds.
Some people challenge government institutions, insisting that they need to clarify some historical incidents. These behaviors are in the same context as the protesters’ acts.
Whether left-wing or right-wing, whether progressive or conservative, we should agree that we all exist within the borders of the same country. We should agree that within those borders, every citizen enjoys the same opportunities and bears the same responsibilities. If we do not have these agreements, we have not founded our country in the truest sense. What is the meaning of being the world’s 11th-largest economy or a country of high technological expertise? These are nothing but images that can be deceiving. Being fooled by these images, some people are prematurely overjoyed, believing that the confrontation between South and North Korea has ended.
The administration is reaching out for a free trade agreement with the United States, while protecting those who beat up our own country.
There are talks on reopening railroads between South and North Korea and having a summit meeting between the leaders of both Koreas. This country is once again being swept by a “north wind.” Those who are expecting another country are hoping for even stronger winds.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk