[OUTLOOK]Was song party’s death knell?When songs are heard from the Blue House, the administration should beware. On Oct. 17, 1979, nine days before President Park Chung Hee was assassinated, a banquet was held in a reception hall of the Blue House to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
The party was attended by the president, ministers and members of the Democratic Republican Party and a negotiation body which consisted of lawmakers who were elected under martial law at the recommendation of the president. A band from the state-run television station played music and famous pop stars sang live. That was followed by a singing contest between members of the Democratic Republican Party and other attendees. They were the last songs sung by that administration. While the party was being held, protesters against martial law were attacking the provincial office, a police station and media buildings in Busan.
On May 29, 2004, in the same banquet hall, President Roh Moo-hyun and Uri Party members held a dinner to celebrate Mr. Roh’s victory in the April presidential election. Everybody was excited over the victory. Chun Jung-bae, a party floor leader, said the president and the party were inseparable. Kim Geun-tae, who was also a floor leader at the time, said he welcomed the president with warmth for joining the party.
Some 20 members who were democracy movement activists as college students in the 1980s came forward and sang about the democracy movement. At the song’s climax, one person even wiped away tears. The president sang along. A Mr. “P” later recalled, “I never imagined that such a day would come that we would sing that song in the middle of the Blue House.” The president then sang a popular Korean pop song titled “Into Midair,” about regrets over unfulfilled dreams.
The president might have predicted the future. His victory in the presidential election, the party and the songs of student activists-turned-politicians have all evaporated within only two years. In the spring of 2006, the fact that a candidate used to be engaged in the democracy movement on campus was a guarantee to win an election. But now people turn their backs on those politicians. A scandal over espionage by those same politicians has even erupted. The title of “former student activist” has become useless and burdensome. What went wrong?
The former activists failed due to their bellicose thinking. They wanted to be on the winning side and change the world as they wished. They have clung to four major tenets ― abandonment of the National Security Law, revision of the school law, revision and establishment of the law on the media and establishment of a law on history. While lawmakers were working toward these goals, student activists-turned-politicians met North Korean spies, joined the Democratic Labor Party and led protests against the transfer of the U.S. military bases. If the National Security Law had been abandoned as these people wanted, the espionage scandal would never have been revealed.
After the ruling party crumpled in the May 31 local elections, Uri members invited people from outside the party to have a debate. Uri legislator Baek Won-woo used to be a student activist who went to prison for violating of the National Security Law and served as a presidential secretary under Mr. Roh. During the debate, he said, “We have not moved forward from our bellicose thinking.” He added, “If we had focused on issues for the future such as reform of the national pension program, things would have been different.”
Lawmakers who used to be student activists are facing an emergency. If things persist, their party will certainly lose the next presidential election. They have many thoughts. “Nobody knows what will happen in politics. We still have a chance if we make a new party by integrating many parties or changingthe appearance of the party.” “The power of former student activists is a strong ability to survive. If we are not elected, we can open a private institute for tutoring.” Whenever drunk, one Uri member who used to be chairman of the association of university representatives says, “We never imagined that we would become legislators. I want to resign and return to my usual place as soon as possible.”
It is not right to talk about former student activists as if they were all the same type of people because each acts differently and speaks differently on certain matters. However, the worst thing is that no other former student activists stood up and corrected their friends when they were wrong. If not elected, these former student activists can still open private institutes for tutoring. However, what will the country do about all the problems they will leave behind?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin