Time to face the painOn the Blue House Web site President Roh Moo-hyun has posted a critique of Korea’s progressivism. In his post the president writes that he is responding to progressive scholars who have criticized him. Choi Jang-jip, a professor at Korea University, has claimed that the Roh administration failed due to incompetence and its failure to enact reforms. He says that the president should allow power to be transferred to the Grand National Party. The president replied that it was too much to say progressives have failed due to his administration and that progressives should reflect on themselves as well. President Roh also pointed to what he says are the weak points of some progressives who objected to our troops being sent to Iraq, a free trade agreement with Washington and the transfer of the U.S. military bases to Pyongtaek. The way he raised these issues must leave people even more confused about who is responsible.
The primary responsibility for the failure of the progressive administration lies with the president. Four years ago, Mr. Roh, who was then an advocate for human rights, was elected as president in a wave of reform and amid a change in political generations. Progressives were ascendant in all sectors of society such as the Blue House, the government, academia, the judiciary, the media and civic organizations. Progressives in their thirties who used to be student activists called the president their instrument. The president was a leader and a tool of progressive forces.
So where was the president when progressives threatened society with their immature views of history, national security and the gap between the rich and the poor? When policemen and soldiers were beaten by protesters at the site of the new army base in Pyongtaek, the progressive prime minister employed by the president did not provide a stern response to the culprits.
When anti-American, pro-North Korean forces attacked the statue of General MacArthur, the president did not condemn them with vigor. But the president now says that some progressives placed the government in a difficult situation by opposing the army base in Pyeongtaek.
In his posting, the president regretted that progressive theories which he had studied before he took power, such as the subordination theory or the national economy and neo-colonial theory did not work in reality. He has realized this after four years in office. The country has paid the price of his lessons all along.
In China, the president said he respected Mao Zedong, who was an accomplice of our enemies during the Korean War. With a shabby independence ideology he damaged the Korea-U.S. alliance. Under his rule, pro-North Korean figures took part in investigating incidents from the past and unionized teachers used pro-North Korean textbooks.
As the president wrote, progressive forces share the responsibility for the failure of progressivism. They still oppose a bilateral trade agreement with Washington, set fire to government buildings and block streets. Unionized workers stage strikes and halt factories for political reasons, which have nothing to do with working conditions. So-called progressives publicize the names of judges who convicted those who violated the martial law under the dictatorship by Park Chung Hee. But they say nothing about North Korea’s human rights violations.
Some progressives stirred-up the National Assembly over the issue of the National Security Law and private school law. Then, they broke away from the Uri Party, saying “the Uri Party has turned conservative.”
Professor Choi says that progressive forces must not try to prevent conservative forces from assuming power if they have not done their best to pass reforms. Progressives should listen to him even though his criticisms are painful.