Wake-up call for both campsChung Sung-hun, president of the Korea Democracy Foundation, devoted his whole life to the enhancement of democracy in Korea. He recently made some bitter remarks to liberal civil groups, his colleagues and junior activists. “The democratic movement should repay the public for their accomplishments, rather than boasting of their careers as a badge of honor,” he said.
Chung argued that civic groups should stop exploiting the accomplishments of the democratic movement by turning a blind eye to the value of human rights. To North Korea he also gave a stern admonition: “A regime that lets its people starve lacks legitimacy to govern.”
His poignant statements attract our attention in the circumstances in which Korean society is sharply split into two: the right versus the left, conservatives against liberals. But his advice should not be taken by the liberal camp alone. Leaders of the conservative forces should also engage in some deep self-reflection. How many of them, in other words, would volunteer to point out problems in their own camp?
We take special note of the remarks he made emphasizing the importance of reconciliation between the industrial and democratic forces: “The priceless values of democracy should not be monopolized by a particular group,” he stressed.
We sympathize with his noble plan to hold the 24th anniversary of the June 10 Democratic Strife this year as an integrated event in which not only the opposition Democratic Party and liberal civic groups participate but also the ruling Grand National Party and the New Right camp. That is an attempt to cut the vicious cycle of conflict still rampant in our country because of sharp ideological divisions and move toward co-prosperity among the leaders of the industrial and democratic forces.
Chung, a democratic movement guru, was imprisoned four times for violating the National Security Law. He was first arrested in 1964 for protesting the Korean government’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. As a democracy fighter, Chung is qualified to say: “The public thinks it has compensated the democratic forces for their previous sacrifices because they have elected members of their ranks as president, government ministers and lawmakers.”
His remarks are a wake-up call for both the liberal camp - still stuck with an outdated ideology and pursuing its partisan interests - and the conservative camp, which is still insensitive to the need to reform itself in the 21st century.