[Viewpoint] Don’t leave anger and discord behindFormer President Kim Dae-jung often says he has faced death five times in his life.
After Korea was liberated in 1945, Kim ran a shipping business and became friendly with the coast guard. Because of this close relationship, he was arrested by the communist army during the Korean War. Many of those arrested were executed by firing squad, but Kim broke out of prison and escaped death.
The second near-death experience was during a traffic accident in May 1971. During the general election campaign, the car Kim Dae-jung was riding in was hit by a truck. The accident left him with a hip injury, and his walking permanently changed. He has claimed that the crash was part of a government conspiracy to murder him disguised as an accident.
The third and the fourth critical moments came when he was kidnapped in August 1973. In October 1972, President Park Chung Hee proclaimed the Yusin Constitution, and Kim Dae-jung, who was in Japan, sought refuge there. The Korea Central Intelligence Agency, led by Lee Hu-rak, kidnapped him from a hotel in Tokyo and brought him to Seoul on a boat.
He claimed that the agents might have planned to kill him and cut him into pieces, since large bags were found in the hotel room. He also claimed that they attempted to drown him, as the boat crew put weights on his hands and feet.
The last encounter with death was when the new military authorities under General Chun Doo Hwan sentenced him to death in 1980.
If his claims are all legitimate, the worst was probably his brush with execution by the communists, a fate that befell many South Koreans.
The witnesses to the traffic accident have given testimony that differs from Kim Dae-jung’s account. The truck driver said that he had no connection with the authorities, and the crash was a simple accident caused by the rain.
Former South Jeolla Governor Heo Gyeong-man, a supporter of Kim Dae-jung, was the prosecutor of the case, and he handled it as a negligence case, not a conspiracy. He never said there had been any external influence interfering with the investigation.
The abduction in Tokyo must have been a truly traumatic experience for Kim Dae-jung. The operation by the intelligence agency, disregarding the sovereignty of another country, revealed the savagery of the authoritarian regime.
However, it has not been confirmed whether the agents actually attempted to mutilate or drown Kim as he claims. The KCIA might have intended simply to bring him back to Seoul.
The death penalty in 1980 was an official and obvious crisis.
However, even during the tense atmosphere of the early days of the Fifth Republic under General Chun, not many people believed that the authorities would actually execute Kim and disregard domestic and international pressure.
These were the facts (and fictions) of Kim Dae-jung’s five brushes with death.
Nevertheless, he is a politician of survival who has been with the citizens during their happiest and gravest moments. He never really left politics.
To Koreans, he was the president for five years, but he has been a politician for 50 years.
Most notably, he fought against Park Chung Hee and was persecuted.
In terms of national accomplishments and citizens’ evaluations, Park Chung Hee might win out historically.
However, we all credit Kim Dae-jung for his accomplishments, planting “democratization” in the minds of citizens despite physical pain.
Today, Kim is fighting against death for the sixth time, and the 83-year-old must win the battle.
No one can deny that Kim Dae-jung is a giant in the modern history of Korea and an elder of our society. It would be a national tragedy if such a figure were to pass away, leaving only wounds and remorse.
A few days before he was admitted to the intensive care unit, he urged the citizens to rise up against the government, calling the Lee Myung-bak administration a dictatorship.
Of course, there must be reasons for his frustration and anger.
Kim might have been shocked that inter-Korean reconciliation was scrapped and former President Roh Moo-hyun, who succeeded Kim, killed himself.
And President Lee Myung-bak did make some mistakes.
However, it is not worthy of a political giant to leave groundless accusations and exhortations to “discord and uprising” as his legacy.
Lee Myung-bak is just another president who is trying to make the country more prosperous and make its citizens happier. He just has different methods. He is not a dictator nor is he trying to destroy North Korea.
In the modern history of Korea, Roh Moo-hyun might be the younger brother of Kim Dae-jung.
However, Roh asked us not to assign blame, and so his older brother should not leave discord and division behind.
Kim Dae-jung needs to defeat the Grim Reaper a sixth time and leave his sickbed.
And then he must heal the wounds of the national discord he has created. Surely God saved him five times so that he could bring peace to our society.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin