He can just stay there

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He can just stay there

The recent press conference in Pyongyang held by Rev. Han Sang-ryeol, standing adviser to the Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement, is a consummate compilation of sophist remarks and ludicrous statements. Regarding the Cheonan sinking, which took the lives of 46 South Korean soldiers, he said: “Lee Myung-bak is the main culprit behind the tragedy.” He added that the incident could be a case of fraud pursued by both the United States, which did not want to lose its leverage in its alliance with South Korea and Japan, and the Lee Myung-bak administration, which wanted to take advantage of the incident for political gains in the local election. We are shocked by his preposterous remarks.

In North Korea, he praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, saying things such as: “I was deeply impressed by your modest attitude, strong sense of humor and bright smiles,” while calling our president “Mr. Lee or Elder Lee.” (President Lee is an elder in the Presbyterian Church.) In prayer, too, he called Kim Jong-il “the general,” while calling the government in the South a “puppet regime.” That shows, in explicit terms, how he perceives the world: He has blind faith in the renegade country.

If the remarks had been made by an average citizen, we may have been able to dismiss them. But he is one of the most influential leaders of the civic community in South Korea. He has appeared at various demonstrations against the government or the U.S., almost whenever those rallies are staged. He has called the Korean War a “patriotic unification war,” labeled the North’s military-first policy “politics for the peace of the Korean Peninsula,” and said North Korean spies and South Korean partisans are “patriotic martyrs for unification.”

The bigger problem is the Democratic Party and the liberal civic groups that supported him on major issues. We want to ask them: Do you really agree with his remarks on the North and share his ideas?

We believe that most of the people who have taken part in the rallies led by Han have done so to show their opposition to the government’s policies, not to side with North Korea or sympathize with his stance against the state. However, even a demonstration that begins with pure motives can devolve into an erratic one when Han or his irrational slogans appear. The opposition camp and civic groups should draw a clear line between these two kinds of demonstrations: one whose original intent remains intact and one that has been influenced by a dissident aiming to overthrow the state.

In the name of liberalism Han insults liberal groups, and in the name of priesthood he disgraces faithful Christians. If he likes North Korea so much, he should just stay there.
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