[Viewpoint] Leftists are never wrong

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[Viewpoint] Leftists are never wrong

As I watched the protests against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, I thought of North Korea. In 2001, at the height of the mad cow scare in Europe, North Korea received 27,000 tons of beef that Germany wanted to throw away. If the beef had landed in the South, it would have led to thousands of candlelight protest marches.

North Korea has gotten completely upset about the Korea-U.S. FTA, calling it a murderous agreement that will ruin the country. However, four years ago, the North Korean Red Cross sent a letter to the pharmaceutical association of South Korea, asking for any medicine that has passed its expiration date by six to twelve months. If there had been similar hidden agreements behind the Korea-U.S. FTA, we would have suffered great disturbances. The leftists in Korea close their eyes on the misrule of the North but use a microscope to scrutinize the South’s failings. They have a very convenient perspective.

When the head of the Jongno Police Precinct was assaulted by anti-FTA protestors, the Democratic Party said it was a trumped-up incident. There were rumors that a police detective was responsible for the assault. We are living in a time when a Supreme Court justice criticizes the president and officials on Facebook for “selling off the nation,” calling them American lackies.

It would be hard for a police chief to stage such an incident. And where’s the evidence? Photographs from the scene revealed the assailant to be a professional demonstrator. It is a clear case of adding insult to injury to blame the police chief for playing such a trick.

Nowadays, one incidence of violence becomes a feast for the left and a scarlet letter for the conservatives. Novelist Lee Mun-yeol was crushed twice. After describing the Kim Dae-jung administration’s operatives who oppressed the mainstream media as “Red Guards of the regime,” he suffered a lot.

During the candlelight protests over U.S. beef imports, he said in an interview that if you play with fire, you will get burned. His critics burned his books and started a boycott campaign. It must have been an ordeal for him. He later recalled that he was more hurt by the silence from literary circles and thanked the late novelist Park Wan-suh for speaking up for him.

The author on the other side of the spectrum is Hwang Sok-yong. He illegally entered North Korea to meet Kim Il Sung and praised him as a hero on the level of King Sejong and General Euljimundeok. However, he got to fly on the presidential airplane with Lee Myung-bak on a foreign visit. He demonstrated his eloquence on a popular talk show and is a co-host of “Big Brothers” on television.

After witnessing the vividly contrasting fates of these two authors, other writers have to make an obvious choice. Understandably, some writers are actively involved in social network services such as Twitter.

In an extension of the same logic, the truly pathetic ones are those Democrats who actually supported the negotiation for the FTA. It is incomprehensible why they risked their political careers to defend the essence of the National Assembly, which is, of course, negotiation and compromise.

They could have gone the easy route and been praised as being good old politicians by simply pretending to be leftist. After all, even some reformist lawmakers of the GNP did not participate in the ratification of the FTA to save their behinds in the next elections. These Democrats may be either truly brave or genuinely dull. How could they not realize that the left is the way of life and source of all light?

At this point, I am curious about the position of Seoul National University professor Ahn Cheol-soo. He is being courted by both liberals and conservatives.

But the only person who directly confronted him on his core beliefs was Seoul National University Professor Jo Guk, who is known as a “Gangnam leftist.” He pointed out that Ahn and those around him have kept a distance from the flow of democratization and progress in Korea, and they have never joined the cause of the liberals, including the candlelight vigils. It was a fierce attack from the high-profile liberal law professor.

Ahn is known for his live-by-the-book attitude, waiting for the green light at a crossing on the Seoul National University campus at 3 a.m. I wonder what he thinks about anti-FTA protestors occupying the streets and assaulting the chief of a police precinct. He cannot hide behind an ambiguous position forever, claiming to be “liberal in economics and conservative on security.”

In reality, deviating from ideology is not as easy as it sounds. Those who set themselves apart from ideology generally lack a concrete philosophy and political caliber. The moment of truth is approaching, and Ahn has to decide between an easy ride with the left or a drastic turn to the right. For your reference, it is easier to be a liberal in Korea.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Chul-ho
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