[Viewpoint] The change will come no matter what
The most dramatic part of the history of the humanity may be the revolutions of the commoners against the monarchs. The revolutions put an end to feudalism and opened the modern era.
The beginning of such revolutions was the Puritan Revolution in 1649. King Charles I, who believed in absolute monarchy, dissolved the Parliament and started a tyrannical rule. Oliver Cromwell was the revolutionary leader of the Parliamentarians. His New Model Army defeated the royalists, and the monarchy was abolished.
King Charles I was executed as a result of the English Civil War and Cromwell seized the power for nine years in the Commonwealth of England. The monarchy was restored briefly, but the Glorious Revolution of 1688 overthrew King James II and started parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom.
Cromwell was the trumpeter who signaled the beginning of the long period of revolutions. The Puritan Revolution in England gave a birth to a free, democratic country in the New World 127 years later. In 1776, the United States successfully carried out the American Revolution against the England. The English Revolution also planted the seeds for enlightenment in France. The seeds of revolution grew into the French Revolution in 1789. Five years later, the French citizens ended the monarchy as King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine.
England and France are not the only countries modernized by revolutions. Feudalistic monarchies and despotic imperial rules in many countries around the world were toppled by bloody revolutions. As a result of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, was executed. In Germany, the military and workers started a revolt, inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution.
Revolution arrived in Germany considerably later than England and France, but in the end, the German people also rose up against the monarch. Kaiser Wilhelm II was abdicated and left the country, and the Weimar Republic was established in Germany. The winds of revolution hit Asia as well. In 1912, the Xinhai Revolution in China ended the 2000 year-long imperial rule. Puyi, the last emperor, spared his life but was abdicated.
Of course, a revolution is no guarantee for a new, great nation. Russia made a wrong choice on communism and was trapped in a series of dictatorships and chaos. China chose capitalistic revolution but failed to build a system on capitalism. The revolution eventually led to a prolonged civil war and confusion, and China ended up settling down with a socialist system.
The outcome of a revolution can vary greatly. However, no matter what the result is, the fact that the citizens pulled off revolutionary changes against the absolute monarch is a great breakthrough in the history of a nation. It is a revolution of conscience that the people realized justice by executing or abdicating the unjust king. The countries that had gone through major revolutions have all become key member in the international community. A country needs a revolution to become an active player in the history of humanity.
Unfortunately, Korea missed the opportunity of revolution because of the Japanese colonial rule. The feudalistic Great Han Empire was not ousted by the people but toppled by foreign influence. If the Koreans had ended the feudalistic rule with our own hands, the status and conscience of the Koreans would have been greatly different.
However, Koreans are not doomed forever. We have accomplished great revolutions, not against the monarch but against dictators. The April 19 Revolution of 1960 and June Uprising in 1987 brought down autocratic rules.
The most unfortunate people in the history of revolution are the citizens of North Korea. Since the liberation in 1945, they have never experienced a single revolutionary change. The Eastern European communist bloc began to collapse from 1989, but the wind of change failed to cross the North Korean border. The wind did not catch on because there was no spirit for revolution in the North. The residents had little antagonism against the hereditary succession. The economy was not as desperate at the time. In fact, many North Koreans agreed that the North Korean socialism needed to be defended.
But the time has changed. Just as Tunisia and Egypt have changed, North Korea is different now. Both the government and the people are on the edge. The thin wall that was blocking the wind of revolution has holes here and there. Some argue that North Korea is an exception.
However, the history tells us that prolonged dictatorship is bound to fall without an exception. The changes can come from a few bullets fired at the chest of the dictator, as in the October 26 assassination of Park Chung Hee in Korea, or the riots and protests, as in the Romanian Revolution that overthrew the Ceausescu regime.
The change will come no matter what. It is the eternal lesson of the history of the humanity. The power of Oliver Cromwell that executed the King of England in 1649 still lives on.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin