[LETTERS to the editor]The Cold War withinWayne Richard’s letter, “If not nationalism, what drives protests?” (July 8) leaves an impression that it is time to light a candle to see the real face of what he calls “nationalism and anti-U.S. sentiment” behind the candlelight vigils.
In the Cold War era after World War II, the Korean Peninsula was the first ever to fall victim to a hot war started by communist North Korea crossing the 38th Parallel with Soviet-made heavy tanks into the democratic territory of South Korea.
The sad story goes on: Even after the end of the Cold War in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Korean Peninsula, the last victim of the Cold War, is still riven by an ideological war not only between the North and South but also within South Korea itself where our democracy permits pluralistic diversity of ideologies.
It was in the context of this history that some extreme leftist radicals began their existence in Korean society.
They are ideologically biased radicals, based on some romanticized philosophy that is bitterly hostile against a capitalist market economy, and adhering to the obsolete Bolshevik line of class struggle, using every possible means ? fair or foul, peaceful or violent, legitimate or illegitimate ? without discrimination.
Rightly Richard raises a question, “why such a studious and learned group (of such a highly educated Korean populace) was so quick to abandon fact, logic and reason for lies, falsehood and hysteria.” The simplistic answer is that those ideologically biased radical groups have just found a great opportunity to strike some of the immature stratum of the populace with a victim mentality with beef phobia.
First, President Lee Myung-bak’s government demonstrated an embarrassing [complacency] in its U.S. beef negotiation, having no regard for the people’s feelings, though groundless, about mad cow disease. This weak point was made a target and so fell prey to anti-government protesters, who created a ghost story, spread mad cow paranoia and incited the innocent to riotous protests.
Second, Koreans’ traditional cultural trait of shinbbaram (a mental state of high-spirited excitement or exultation), which once made a remarkable contribution to good purposes such as Korea’s getting into the World Cup semifinals, this time was abused, inciting irrational fervor and exaggerated fears of mad cow disease.
Third, during the past five years of the Roh Moo-hyun government, polarization between the rightists and the leftists has been all the more intense despite Rho’s nominal equalization policy.
In the meantime, as a result of deepening polarization, leftist radicals such as the progressive or participatory solidarity groups acquired more influential strength, establishing a self-styled political solidarity ready to trigger anti-government mass protests whenever possible.
Fourth, the so-called progressive or participatory solidarity groups experienced a horrible nightmare when the conservative Lee Myung-bak won the presidency. A minority group dreaming of lording it over the majority, they find in their own dictionary no word for forgiveness as far as the majority electing a conservative president is concerned.
That is why the naive candlelight demonstrations that began from innocent sentiment has turned into a violent anti-government movement, launching indiscriminate attacks and retaliation for the unpardonable coming to power of a conservative government.
In short, the candlelight should go out.
Lee Kwon-suck, Gwangju, Gyeonggi