[EDITORIALS]Was Park’s death in vain?Twenty years ago, a Seoul National University student activist died while enduring water torture. His death on Jan. 14, 1987, first became known to the world through the JoongAng Ilbo and enflamed the public’s wrath against the dictatorship of the military regime. This led to the June civil movement in 1987, which wrestled down the regime and forced it to accept the will of the people. We will always remember the student activist, Park Jong-cheol, for his sacrifice in bringing democracy to Korea. A lot has come to pass since then. We now have a direct presidential election and have experienced a power shift in political parties, regions and generations. The prosecution, police, intelligence and tax agencies have gained independence and political neutrality, and we have a vociferous labor movement which would have been unthinkable two decades ago. All this might have come about even without Mr. Park’s death, but without his sacrifice, it would have taken longer and required greater efforts.
At the turning point of two decades of democratization, we stop to ask ourselves: Are we doing as well with our democracy as the late Mr. Park would have wanted? Those who led the democracy movement in the 1980s are now the established power-holders of this country. Led by President Roh Moo-hyun, they have fallen into self-complacent vanity, denying the achievements of our founding fathers and the success of our industrialization. Implementing almost Taliban-like reforms, they have thrown our nation into confusion. Having begun with the democratic movement in 1987, our labor unions are now 20 years old. Yet as seen in the recent case of Hyundai Motor, they act like they are still toddlers, throwing tantrums that paralyze our industries.
Park Jong-cheol was an original member of the 386 generation. Mr. Park experienced the hardships of the 386-ers, who were the main force behind our democracy movement in the 1980s, but died before he could see the fruit of his endeavors. In his place, his fellow 386-ers have fallen from grace. Their arrogance and incompetence has led them to commit old sins in a new way. Putting forth an inexperienced president as their strongman, the 386-ers have caused such havoc that now opinion polls show a meager 10-percent support for the president and the governing party.
At his son’s funeral, Mr. Park’s father could only say he had no words to speak. If Mr. Park could see his fellow 386-ers now, he, too, might be speechless.