Sorting the heroes from the traitors

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Sorting the heroes from the traitors


As always, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea does not disappoint. After the chainsaw and hammer from last year, lawmakers’ antics were on display in a recent session so dramatic you’d be hard pressed to imagine it. Without the tear gas from the other day, it would have been a boring year and the foreign press would have been disappointed.

In rejecting the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, the opposition parties used harsh language but did not start a brawl. Instead, they used the epithet “traitor.”

The traitor in U.S. history is Benedict Arnold. During the Revolutionary War, he led the Continental Army and fought against the British. But he was passed over for promotion, other generals took credit for his accomplishments and he was charged with engaging in corruption to help finance the war. Disgruntled, he attempted to surrender a fort to the British. When his plot was exposed, he defected to England. He received an enormous sum of money in compensation, became a general in the British Army and his name became synonymous with “traitor.”

Abraham Lincoln was also once criticized as a traitor. President James Polk wanted to start a war against Mexico, but the 38-year-old congressman was firmly opposed, arguing that the clash that would start the war took place in a disputed border region, not in American territory. He was not opposed for opposition’s sake. He just couldn’t tolerate the distortion of truth in an important national decision. Nevertheless, Lincoln was branded a traitor, lost his seat and could not get into politics for over 10 years.

Each man is viewed as either traitor or hero based on whether he stood by his convictions.

If the ruling party lawmakers who passed the FTA are viewed as traitors, the opposition lawmakers who were trying to stop it will be seen as heroes. But only time will tell. If politicians had prioritized the nation over their self-interests and reached a compromise, it would have benefitted the country. But I guess we can’t expect them to have the wisdom of Jesus.

People once tried to trap Jesus with a tricky question. They asked whether they should pay tax or not. Israel was under the rule of Rome at the time, and not paying tax was against the law while approving tax would make him a traitor. Jesus took a coin and asked, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

*The writer is the culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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