‘Don’t blame anyone’The queue of mourners at the altar in front of Deoksu Palace in central Seoul on Monday afternoon seemed endless despite the sizzling heat. Although the number of visitors was much smaller than in the evening, people had to wait on average around half an hour for their turn to offer flowers before the portrait of the late President Roh Moo-hyun.
The altar at Deoksu is one of 150 set up by civic and religious groups. The government has set up 31 official memorials nationwide.
Although citizens may differ in their assessment of the late president, the feeling of bereavement is felt by all. People feel united in paying their last respects to a former national leader who many feel once represented all of us. Many sympathize with a man who chose to take his own life because of the agony he suffered at the end of his life.
At least during the official mourning period until the funeral on Friday, the entire country will have to share the feelings of sympathy, and that will be the right thing to do.
However, sorrow sometimes hampers rational judgment. Village residents and other mourners prevented National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyung-o from visiting Roh’s mourning altar at Bongha Village on Sunday. He barely managed to succeed at dawn the next day.
Some people there threw water and foul language at him as he turned to head back to Seoul.
“We will let you in only if you bring Roh back to life,” some shouted.
Moon Jae-in, Roh’s close confidant, tried to persuade the crowds but Park Geun-hye of the Grand National Party and Lee Hoi-chang of the Liberal Forward Party also failed to reach the altar and pay their respects.
President Lee Myung-bak had also expressed his wish to visit Bongha in person but he was dissuaded from doing so because of security risks.
These politicians may not enjoy the same views or occupy the same political ground but their intention to honor the dead was the right thing to do. Roh wouldn’t have wanted visitors to be blocked. As he said in his last message, “Don’t blame anyone.”
What is more worrying is the action of groups wanting to make political capital out of the grief people feel for Roh. Next to the altar at Deoksu Palace, pro-Roh groups are collecting signatures in support of impeaching President Lee.
The people’s funeral scheduled for Friday at Gwanghwamun should not become an assembly point for protest groups. Instead, the political circle should be trying to embrace the mood of the nation in this mourning period, and uniting for the future.