[OUTLOOK]Let us now shape historic leadersToday is Korea’s National Foundation Day. Dangun Wanggeom founded Gojoseon, the first kingdom of Korea, on this day in 2333 BC. The foundation of this kingdom is based on a legend, so this holiday regrettably feels less real than other national holidays. However, we cannot underestimate the symbolism of this day, celebrating the fact that the Korean people established a nation thousands of years ago.
When it comes to the foundation of a country, the United States is blessed because the memory of its beginning is still vivid. Over 200 years ago, its people founded their country by winning a war of independence against Great Britain. Americans built their country based on the conviction that every human being was born equal and free. The Constitution that these founders wrote serves as a guide for the United States and has also inspired many other countries.
We desperately need an advisor or a mentor whenever faced with difficulties. We try to solve the problems of today by learning from the experiences and wisdom of people who have lived before us. We want to gain support from their spirit, though we might not get answers for certain problems.
Among American evangelists, an expression, “WWJD,” has been in use. This stands for “What would Jesus do?” They ask themselves this question whenever they face problems, and they believe they should act accordingly.
A Buddhist could ask, “What would Buddha do?” A believer in Confucius may ask, “What would Confucius do?” They then will find answers according to teachings of Sakyamuni or Confucius.
This is the same with governing a country. If a country had great forefathers, descendants can ask what their ancestors would do in the face of contemporary problems. I said earlier that the United States is a blessed country because American citizens have preserved their trust and respect for the forefathers who founded their nation.
Americans still ask, “What would the founders do?” when faced with fundamental issues. This is possible because they have kept their respect for their great forefathers.
On the morning of Foundation Day, I wish that Koreans could also ask the question, “What would our forefathers do?” I am proud of my country. We have a long history of 5,000 years but we have never had a time like today, the era of Korea.
Although many people have a hard time due to the sluggish economy and unemployment, have we ever enjoyed a time of prosperity and freedom like these days?
Let’s suppose that our country was born with the start of the Republic of Korea. This would then be a young country ― just 60 years old. We can say then we are still building and shaping our country. Hundreds of years later, all of us living today will become the founders of the country. Our dreams and convictions will become standards for our descendants and our acts will become their guide. This is a grave and proud duty, indeed.
We lament that we do not have great figures in history to look up to. That is because we have defamed great leaders who could have become our historic figures. Where should we find the founders of the country? We should create them from now on. To do so, we should focus on their credits, rather than their flaws.
Thanks to Syng-man Rhee, the Republic of Korea was born, though he was criticized for being a dictator. Thanks to his insight and judgment, our country avoided becoming communist and the framework of the country was prepared. Because our country is surrounded by strong powers, we always need to think in what ways Mr. Rhee would try to preserve our country safely.
Park Chung Hee made our country prosperous. If we aspire to continue to be a prosperous country, we need to ask him how to do it.
Kim Young-sam has been a democracy activist all his life and ended military coups d’etat in this country. If the values of democracy were to be questioned in the future, descendants of that time should ask Mr. Kim how to resolve problems.
After him, Kim Dae-jung revived dreams for reunification of the two Koreas.
Although there is no single person who is perfect in every sense, we can shape the founders of the country by doing this mosaic work. This is what I suggest on the occasion of Korea’s 4,339th Foundation Day.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk