[Viewpoint] Driving the Roh era into oblivionThe people of Roh Moo-hyun are making spectacular comebacks. Han Myeong-sook, who served as prime minister during the Roh administration, is the chairwoman of the biggest opposition party. Moon Jae-in, former chief of staff for President Roh, has emerged as a presidential hopeful. Moon Sung-keun is a member of the party’s Supreme Council, and Kim Du-kwan and Ahn Hee-jung are governors.
Many of the former ministers and presidential secretaries are also running in the upcoming general election. The people of Roh Moo-hyun advocate the restoration of the Roh Moo-hyun era. But was the period so respectable and legitimate?
The biggest weapon of the progressives and the leftists should be morality. The people’s administration should have a common touch. In September 2008, less than a year after President Roh retired, a wedding was held at the seventh hole of a golf course in North Chungcheong.
The father of the groom was the owner of the country club and the biggest financial benefactor of Roh. The father of the bride was the chief of staff for President Roh. The officiator of the ceremony was Mr. Roh, and over 100 key figures of the administration attended as guests, with former prime ministers Han Myeong-sook and Lee Hae-chan, and former National Assembly speaker Kim Won-ki in the front row.
If it had been a wedding of ordinary wealthy people, the public wouldn’t have paid much attention to it. However, it was not a mere union of two respectable families but a celebration of the insiders of the Roh administration. At the time, Korean society was under the gloomy shadow of the Roh administration. It had been less than a year since the administration ended, stained by corruption. Rumors of a financial crisis in the United States added worries to an already struggling economy. And the people of “the people’s administration” enjoyed a party on a golf course.
A few months later, a tragedy began as Park Yeon-cha, another financial sponsor of Roh, emerged. The beast swallowed the president’s brother and harmed his wife, and in the end, defeated the president. The primary motive of former president Roh’s suicide was Kwon Yang-sook, his wife. According to Moon Jae-in, Roh was furious when he learned that his wife had received money from Park. It was unimaginably shocking to him. When the prosecutors accused him of orchestrating it, he threw himself off the cliff to prove his innocence.
At the funeral, former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook said with tears, “I am sorry I couldn’t protect you.” What did she want to protect him from? From his wife or the prosecutors? Of course, the prosecutors are certainly accountable. However, his wife bears more responsibility for making the former head of state choose death. Roh Moo-hyun was a victim of matrimonial mistrust rather than political retaliation.
Moon Jae-in was the key figure in the Roh administration. As he is pursuing a career in politics, he is pitching his experience with the Special Forces. He publicized a photo of himself descending with a parachute. Not so long ago, he demonstrated breaking tiles with his head on a television variety show, claiming it was a martial arts move he learned in the military.
However, during the Roh administration, the country’s national security awareness was greatly challenged. Violent anti-American demonstrators beat up servicemen while protesting against the relocation of a U.S. military base. Some extremists attacked the statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Incheon. The United States helped defend Korea from the invasion of North Korea. If General MacArthur’s Incheon landing had not succeeded, the Roh Moo-hyun administration would not have existed.
Attacking such an ally is betraying the favor. Moon Jae-in, a former member of the Special Forces, remained silent to the act of betrayal. What do his fellow Special Forces soldiers feel about him? Breaking a few tiles with his head does not bring national security.
As the administration that had the overwhelming support of the citizens failed, the administration that had been abandoned by the people is rising. Yet the memories of the Roh administration do not disappear easily. Owl Rock, where Roh jumped his to death three years ago, stands in the same place, forever. A few pieces of the confetti from the wedding might still be somewhere on the golf course. The five years of the Roh Moo-hyun administration is summarized in the JoongAng Ilbo’s editorial for the Feb. 23, 2008 issue. It is titled, “Sending off President Roh Moo-hyun into history.”
by Kim Jin
* The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.