[Viewpoint]Don’t cry for meAll of a sudden, tears have become abundant in Korean politics. A presidential candidate cried during a television campaign advertisement. An old politician cried every time he lost in the presidential race. This time, he embraced his chief campaign manager and wept.
The general elections were filled with tears as well. The older brother of the president, who spent sleepless nights contemplating his run, cried. The president’s right-hand man shed tears as he said farewell to the street vendors in his constituency, which he represented for 12 years. A veteran politician who still lifts weights although he is in his 60s cried as well. A Park Geun-hye supporter felt frustrated that he did not get nominated by the party.
Another veteran politician in Park’s faction, who stood against the authoritarian rule of the Fifth Republic with Kim Young-sam, also wept. He said he was so sorry to the people whom he persuaded to join Park’s side, but then failed to get nominated.
The election made many veterans who have seen the ups and downs of politics cry.
Ancient sages said a true man only cries when his parents die. Having been chosen among many candidates, then victorious in their election campaigns, the lawmakers can be called the manly men of modern day. Still, those men cried. We understand their anger and frustration and feel sorry to see them wiping their tears with their fists. However, somehow I feel strangely empty as I watch the politicians cry.
On Aug. 15, 1974, the late President Park Chung Hee lost his wife to a bullet shot by a pro-Pyongyang Korean resident of Japan.
The first lady was a woman the president loved and respected. On Aug. 19, her funeral car was covered with white chrysanthemums. Saying goodbye to his beloved wife at the gate of the Blue House, the dictator cried. The nation was watching him on television.
He shed tears as a husband, but they were the tears of the Korean people at the same time. The cruel confrontation between the South and the North separated the couple forever.
In May 1980, the new military regime arrested Kim Dae-jung and the citizens of Gwangju rose to action.
Kim Dae-jung sat in prison as the city became covered in blood with the battles between protesters and the military. After the protests were suppressed, Kim was sentenced to death. And then, he left for the United States.
Kim Dae-jung visited the victims of Gwangju for the first time seven years later, in September 1987. The Democratic Party adviser screamed at the Mangwoldong Cemetery, embracing the relatives of the victims. It was more than the tears of Kim Dae-jung, the citizens of Gwangju or the Honam people.
The tears belonged to all of the victims of the democratization movement. Korea was under the authoritarian rule designed to force it away from the millennia of poverty. The tears were from the country that had to suffer under the dictatorship.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the World Trade Center Towers in New York were attacked.
A few days later, President George W. Bush visited Ground Zero. The Texan cowboy cried. The president known for his smiling face shed tears. And the tears were not his personal tears, but the tears of the victims who had to jump off the 80th floor away from the flames, as well as the policemen and firefighters who entered the building on the verge of collapse, and the United States of America that faced such fierce hatred in the middle of unprecedented prosperity.
Political leaders are public figures. They build their standing in the back alleys and come out of the open plaza with recommendations from the voters. The name of the open plaza is the district, community and the nation. The politicians pledge their blood, sweat and tears not to themselves, but to the community. Therefore, the tears of the public figures should transcend the individuals and be focused on history and the community.
Many tragic events in a community are far more serious than failing to get a nomination or losing an election. Some people lose their homes to typhoons. Fathers lose their jobs and mothers leave their families. Although a politician might cry after losing an election, underprivileged girls and boys deserve to cry every day.
I would like to comfort the public figures for the human pain they experienced during the election. And I hope they do not have to cry again for the same reason. When they do shed tears again, I hope the tears have a new meaning. They are now standing in the plaza, not the back alley.
Their tears should become history, and history should become their tears, just like the tears of Park Chung Hee, Kim Dae-jung and George W. Bush.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin