[VIEWPOINT]Failures of the anti anti-CommunistsMeager coverings / Revolution in that year April / Disgusting are those mere coverings of revolution.
From Mount Halla to Mount Baekdu / Stay / You fragrant bosom of the Earth.
Go away to where you belong / Metals, weapons and meager coverings.
This is a poem written in 1967 by Shin Dong-yeop, a dissident poet.
In the 1980s, when South Korea was under a military-backed authoritarian regime, almost every university student recited that poem, regardless of whether they were student activists or not.
The expression “meager covering,” which mocked people with vested interests and their hypocrisy, was refreshing to me.
“The Idols and the Reason,” written by Rhee Yueng-hui, a professor at Hanyang University, was as popular as Mr. Shin’s poems.
At a time when anti-Communism was our national policy, Mr. Rhee’s drumbeat, “Destroy the idol of Cold War ideology and restore your reason,” sounded like thunder to the ears of university students.
My memories of reading Mr. Rhee’s book and having discussions with classmates are still vivid.
Quite a long time has passed since then. That passage of time has revealed the truth of many hidden things.
In the meantime, the Tiananmen Square incident broke out, in which the Chinese government under its Communist Party ran over university students with tanks, and “the workers’ paradise,” the socialist bloc of Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union, collapsed. Mr. Rhee’s words were right in some parts. As he pointed out, the communists were not monsters with horns. They, too, were ordinary people who struggled to eat and live well. But in front of the Berlin Wall that they broke open, the communists shouted out demands for freedom and bread. The reality of socialist countries was totally different from Mr. Rhee’s claims.
Mr. Rhee praised Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution highly, as if it were a great experiment for the future of the human race. However, the truth was revealed to the outside world after China opened its doors. We came to realize how terrified the Chinese were by the Cultural Revolution. The message of hope that Mr. Rhee implied in his books consistently was not true, after all.
I had hoped that he would tell the 386 generation, who, like me, destroyed the idol of anti-communism and euphorically embraced a socialist feeling after reading his book, that he misled in some respects, and that there were some things beyond his knowledge and that he felt sorry for that.
To my dismay, however, he has never done so.
In autumn 2006, we are facing another idol that has been harbored by the people who belonged to the opposite side of the anti-communism movement in the 1980s. This monstrous idol instantly dominated the minds of those who hated stubborn conservatives and anti-communism.
It has two names. One is “an illusion and beautification of North Korea,” and the other is “romantic nationalism.”
Unlike the stubborn conservatives, they utter pro-war slogans. But we must get rid of the idol and illusions that lurk on the opposite side of anti-communism. Let’s answer the following questions to check whether we have such an idol in our minds.
First, one is generous to a North Korean regime that drives millions of North Korean residents to the state of slavery, even though one considers human rights to be important.
Second, although one criticizes former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo, saying that they stole political power and shared the benefits among their classmates at the Korean Military Academy, one takes a lukewarm attitude toward Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong-il’s hereditary transfer of power.
Third, although one sympathizes with Shin Dong-yeop’s poem, one does not worry about North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, the most dangerous metal among “all metals.”
If any one of the above describe you, you must ponder, and seriously ask yourself whether you have been caught by a new idol.
Like many other members of the 386 generation who studied in universities in 1980s, I was also a spiritual follower of Rhee Yueng-hui.
About 20 years ago, when the dawn broke as I finished my over-nightly sentry duty along the barbed-wire fences that ran along the truce line between South and North Korea, I used to recite Shin Dong-yeop’s poem with the feeling that I had “burning thirst in the early hours of daybreak,” as poet Kim Ji-ha’s poem goes.
Although I am in my 40s now, I commit myself to keeping the sense of justice and passion that I had at the time.
*The writer is the city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Chong-hyuk