[Outlook]Forget what you know

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[Outlook]Forget what you know

‘Even though it can not be forgotten, let us forget it together.” The Spanish people heeded that sentiment, which served as a driving force to help their country emerge as a vital European center today. We are now facing a great number of tantalizing problems that we cannot and must not forget. Still, it is high time for us to put a past full of hardships out of mind, and try to achieve our dreams in the future.
The Spanish Civil War, which was touched by a complicated mix of ideologies including conservatism, nationalism, Marxism and revolutionary progressivism, devastated Spain from 1936 to 1939.
It ended with about 500,000 Spanish deaths and the founding of a dictatorship led by the Nationalist General Francisco Franco. After his death in 1975, Spain began a peaceful transition to democracy, consequently leading to the “Third Wave of Democratization,” a term that describes a global trend experienced by more than 60 countries since 1974.
That global trend, in fact, has deeply influenced Korea, too, although in an indirect manner.
Today’s Spain is experiencing a peaceful era, in which many Spanish people can happily enjoy the Spanish league soccer match between Barcelona and Madrid. However, I do not think the Spanish people have already forgotten how desperately they fought the bloody civil war and how deep their wounds were 70 years ago.
To bring back Spain’s glory days, the country’s people have decided to forgive and forget each others’ pain and the deep-rooted rancor of their past. In addition to that, political compromises have yielded tangible results because the citizens have a mature sense of civic awareness.
We Koreans have so many grievances that we cannot easily relent and let go of our pain. However, we need to understand and forgive each other to fulfill our shared dream of building a peaceful and prosperous community.
This is the time when we should be making concerted efforts to achieve a national consensus designed to cultivate our goals together.
We desperately need to understand the human limitations, especially of our own neighbors. In doing so, we should take the courageous step of letting the past be past. In choosing to forget the past, we can forge the peaceful reconciliation of our community.
We sincerely hope that our bright future will no longer be deeply tied to the sufferings in our gloomy past.
Of course, I am not saying that all the past should be put completely behind us. I understand that the past always provides us invaluable lessons. Instead, we should renew our understanding of the past by meditating on our shared national experiences and make decisions together that affect the future of our community.
Our shared experiences throughout history are still vivid. Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have experienced difficult times and made great efforts together to fight through all those hardships -- including the Japanese occupation, the Aug. 15 liberation and the tragic division of the Korean Peninsula.
We have spared no effort to drive our country toward industrialization and modernization to escape poverty and backwardness.
However, a national introspection about our great economic and political success has not occurred, despite our high level of achievement in setting up a successful national foundation, followed by industrialization and democratization.
Under the shadow of our national success, we should continue to reflect on how much our vision of providing social justice for all has been realized, with a view toward fully securing the people’s human rights and a fair distribution of resources.
Reconsideration and reflection can only happen when we are inseparably fused together with a tolerant attitude, moving beyond our long-held grievances that occurred in the past.
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea.
Taking a trip down memory lane, which we have walked together during the past six decades, there have been bright glorious days and dark gloomy periods of hardship.
Now is the time for us to calmly search for brightness rather than darkness, as well as harmony rather than conflict.
Ideologies or social norms have seemed contradictory and conflicting because they were inconsistent with each other. However, we need to be well aware that they can be harmonized together based on our national wisdom about reconciliation.
The broad-minded public sentiment which is represented by elections or public opinion polls shows that wisdom.
For example, we Koreans are unchallenged in terms of our concern about social disparities among people and are working together to improve the difficult situation.
We have a political culture which is based on disliking monopolies, forced resolutions and radical changes.
The Korean people share a strong collective confidence that we need to help each other to build and share in the prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
More than 500,000 volunteered to help clean the Taean oil spill within three weeks, sparing no effort to prevent our marine environment from being polluted.
Koreans need this solidarity and tolerance to forget what we need to forget for the better future of our community.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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