[Viewpoint] Time to stop playing soldiers

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[Viewpoint] Time to stop playing soldiers

Three treasured swords have become prominent during the history of Korea’s opposition parties: staging hunger strikes, quitting the National Assembly and staging a struggle against the government outside the National Assembly.

All three are highly dramatic methods because they involve physical comfort in a battle against perceived oppression.

The most historic hunger strikes were those staged by former presidents Kim Young-sam, in 1983, and Kim Dae-jung, in 1990. They lasted for 23 days and 13 days, respectively.

Kim Young-sam’s hunger strike shook the administration of former President Chun Doo Hwan. That of Kim Dae-jung troubled the government of the Democratic Liberal Party.

The most historic anti-government struggle staged by the opposition outside of the Assembly was the one staged by the New Democratic Party from 1986 to 1987. Members demanded a constitutional revision to allow the direct election of the president.

The most historic resignations of assemblymen were the ones tendered by the New Democratic Party assemblymen in 1979.

In the fall of that year, the 18-year rule of President Park Chung Hee was becoming shaky. Signs of instability and collapse started to show in the summer.

On Oct. 4, the fuse was finally lit. The ruling party kicked Chairman Kim Young-sam out of the New Democratic Party. He said in an interview with the New York Times that the United States should withdraw its support for Park Chung Hee.

Park was outraged and accused Kim Young-sam of flunkyism. New Democratic Party assemblymen occupied the platform of the Assembly, and there was a fierce fist fight between the people from the government and opposition party.

Sixty-six representatives of the New Democratic Party tendered their resignation nine days later.

Three days after that, on Oct. 16, a large-scale protest rally broke out in Busan, the hometown of Kim Young-sam. It signaled the start of historic Bu-Ma incident, anti-government rallies staged simultaneously in Busan and Masan. After that, it took only 10 days for the Park administration to come to an end.

If the Park administration had not expelled Kim Young-sam from the Assembly, New Democratic Party assemblymen would not have resigned en masse. Then the fate of the administration might have been different. Essentially, history changed course at the “expulsion of an assemblyman,” and the threat of the mass resignations.

Generation-wise, the current Democratic Party is the son of the New Democratic Party, which was active in the 1970s and 1980s.

Outlaw swordsmen who stood on the sidelines of power were rampant in the father’s generation, and the three swords were precious weapons that defended the opposition party and the people.

However, the age of scuffling disappeared when the democratization movement started in 1987 and there was a change of power between the government and the opposition party in 1998.

Students filled the vacuum left by the swordsmen, but they are now busy solving “advanced” university entrance exam problems. Since times have changed, the three swords of the father’s generation are now family heirlooms that should be kept deep inside a closet. However, the son who was not confident about studying has thrown away his pencil and is holding the sword again.

It is awkward to see someone playing with a sword during the highly competitive university entrance examination. The father wishes his son would study harder, but the son indulges in a game of soldiers, something he should have stopped doing a long time ago.

The chairman of the party staged a hunger strike, 84 assemblymen have tendered resignations, and the party has started a “long march for 100 days.”

The father who retired to his hometown quickly returned to Seoul in a hurry and asked, “Son, what happened? Has there been a military coup d’etat?”

Democratization was the topic of conversation in the father’s generation. The people wanted the 18-year rule of Park Chung Hee to end and Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo to surrender. They strongly demanded that the Democratic Liberal Party accommodate local autonomy.

What is the situation now? Is there a long-term rule dictatorship?

Do people want the administration to surrender? Does the administration reject the demands of the people?

There is a difference between a failure in national affairs and dictatorial rule. Many people voted for President Lee Myung-bak because they were disappointed at the ideological disease in the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Even now, the majority of people want to recover from the financial crisis more than they want to watch a repeat of the old ideological struggle.

Is the passage of the media law equivalent to the expulsion of the opposition party chairman?

If it is for the purpose of easing regulations on the media that were imposed by the military regime in 1980, it is a democratic bill, not a dictatorial one. The opposition party rejected the rule of the majority, which was mandated by the people.

Therefore, it was inevitable to use the authority of the speaker to process the bill at the National Assembly.

Can it be cause for the opposition lawmakers to throw away sacred and valuable assemblyman’s seats?

This is not the first time that the son has childishly tried to play the soldier’s game. Every time he is presented with a college scholastic ability test paper, he throws away his pencil and draws his sword.

Last year, during the candlelight vigil against the resumption of U.S. beef imports, the Democratic Party brandished an old sword called “struggle” outside of the Assembly.

Not long ago, the son played soldier brandishing the death of Roh Moo-hyun.

It was not long ago that he came back to the classroom because nobody was looking at him.

Now, he has turned over his test paper again and started to play another wargame.

The doorplate of the Democratic Party is covered with the blood, sweat and tears of its founders. Should the son cause such a family to fall instead of making it greater?

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin


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