Lee vows cleanup at April 19 event

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Lee vows cleanup at April 19 event

In a commemorative ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the April 19 Revolution, President Lee Myung-bak reiterated yesterday his commitment to fight against graft and corruption in Korean society.

Lee also warned against politicians’ use of regionalism and populism to win elections.

The government celebrated the 50th anniversary of the April 19 revolution, the popular uprising against the corruption and autocracy of the Syngman Rhee regime. About 2,000 people, including President Lee, senior government officials and families of those killed during the protest in 1960, attended the ceremony at the National Cemetery for the April 19 Revolution in Seoul.

“Eradicating corruption and irregularities is the task of our times,” Lee said. “Perennial corruption of authorities, local communities and the education sector are still deeply rooted in our society. To make a truly advanced nation, the government will boldly carry out reforms to root out corruption.”

Lee also said it is time for Korea to contemplate its next 50 years of democracy. “It is necessary for us to look back if we continue to rely on regionalism, which splits the nation, and populism,” Lee said. He also urged politicians to stop opposing the government simply for the sake of dissent.

Other political leaders also issued statements. Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said Korea’s democracy is in crisis, comparing the Lee administration with the Rhee government.

“The Rhee government’s anti-democratic habits of mobilizing the military and police is now replaced by the crafty use of political prosecutors,” Chung said. He also said the Rhee and Lee governments’ North Korea policies are similar because they both oppose the engagement programs.

The ruling Grand National Party said it will uphold the spirit of the April 19 Revolution to cope with the country’s current national security crisis.

“The Cheonan’s sinking shows the cold reality that a new level of sacrifice is needed to protect the liberal democracy,” said GNP spokesman Cho Jae-jin in a commentary. “Based on the sacrifices made by the democracy fighters of the April 19 Revolution, we will develop democracy and open a new history of a unified Korea.”

Leaders of the Grand National Party and the Democratic Party also visited the National Cemetery for the April 19 Revolution. According to the cemetery, 272 graves are located there, including those for 187 killed during the 1960 protests.

The uprising of 1960 eventually led to the resignation of then President Rhee, and April 19 has been commemorated in Korea as an important milestone for democracy. So far, 272 leaders of the movement have received national foundation medals from the government.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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