[Viewpoint] The Democratic Party’s poster boyA few years ago, I visited Amtae Island in South Jeolla. The taxi driver pointed at a village and proudly explained that lawmaker Chun Jung-bae grew up there. The boy from Amtae Island was celebrated as one of the “three geniuses of Mokpo High School” and entered Seoul National University’s law school.
He passed the national bar examination and worked as an attorney until he became a member of the National Assembly in 1996. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, he served as a minister of justice. Now, he is serving a fourth term representing his district in the capital region and is a member of the Supreme Council of the Democratic Party. His achievements are enough to become the pride of Amtae Island.
However, his resume does not do justice to the person that the boy from Amtae Island has become. The boy is still wandering in the metropolitan city of Seoul. He has strayed into the back allies of chaos and inferiority and is yet to find his path into the history books.
Chun’s speech and behavior do not adhere to dignity or logic. Last December, he said at an outdoor rally in Suwon: “We should just kill the Lee Myung-bak administration for telling lies and disappointing the citizens.” He also uses vulgar language to attack critics of Roh Moo-hyun.
Though Chun has served in the cabinet of a country, he has acted like a drunkard in front of citizens. During a government questioning session in February 2009, he made a strange argument, saying: “The Lee Myung-bak administration committed coup d’etats in seven areas, trampling upon the sovereignty and going against the heavens.”
This intellectual, who passed the bar exam and served as an attorney and a minister of justice, apparently does not understand the meaning of a coup d’etat.
Chun is betraying his own past for a small interest of the present. In 2007, when he was a justice minister, President Roh Moo-hyun signed a free trade agreement with the United States. Chun praised the FTA and signed a statement of related ministers urging its ratification in the National Assembly.
However, now Chun is leading the opposition to the very same FTA they negotiated. In early August, he contributed an article to a U.S. Congressional magazine and urged the U.S. Congress to oppose the agreement. He claimed that the FTA would aggravate the U.S. trade deficit and trigger job losses.
If his argument is correct, it would have meant a trade surplus and a net increase in jobs for Korea. But he still opposed the FTA. The Democratic Party, which urged for a renegotiation of the FTA after it completed the initial agreement, now says the renegotiation advantages the U.S.
Chun’s positions on national security issues are even more worrisome.
A minister of justice must strictly safeguard the law and ensure national security and order. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, prosecutors attempted to arrest Dongguk University professor Kang Jeong-koo for praising Kim Il Sung’s invasion of South Korea. Kang’s position is not only vile, but also illegal under law - unless you asked Justice Minister Chun, who issued an order to prevent Kang’s arrest.
As a member of the National Assembly, Chun has focused on supporting pro-Pyongyang figures. He called the criticism of the convicted North Korean spy Song Du-yul a “red scare.” He praised Kang Hui-nam, a pro-Pyongyang activist who praised Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong-il’s philosophies, as “someone who devoted his whole life for democracy and unification.”
Chun also does not appreciate the responsibilty that comes with the post of a lawmaker. In July 2009, when the Grand National Party voted on a media law, he submitted his resignation. The voters elected him to work for them, but he resigned and took five months off. He then stealthily returned to the National Assembly, but one can only guess why.
Compared to Roh Moo-hyun, he lacks consistency. He again abandoned his National Assembly seat to run for Seoul mayor. In the interest of his constituents, he should only have resigned if he won his party’s nomination.
The National Assembly seat is not a piece of trash to be recycled. Why did he beg to be elected if he wanted to resign for his own personal gain? He lacks logic and justification.
Chun is letting down the people of his hometown in Amtae Island and Mokpo. What the citizens want is an island boy as a national leader who is honest and competent. However, looking at his inconsistent positions and vitriolic rhetoric, those people are sure to suffer great disappointment, indeed.
*The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin