[Viewpoint] Lim should apologize sincerelyThe rough words used by Democratic United Party Representative Lim Soo-kyung during a yelling match at a “P” bar in Insa-dong, central Seoul, were extremely cruel. They ignited the wrath of our society. She started with “How dare you challenge a lawmaker?” and it showed the authoritarianism of a first-term lawmaker who spent just three days in her office. No one will feel easy about it.
Calling Baek Yosep, a 28-year-old North Korean defector, “clueless,” Lim then yelled at him, “You North Korean defector sons of bitches! Shut up and live silently in the Republic of Korea, betrayers.” She was insulting the entire population of defectors, who risked their lives to come here.
She then cursed at Ha Tae-keung, a former student activist against the authoritarian South Korean regime. Ha is a popular North Korea rights activist. “Ha Tae-keung, you traitor son of a bitch. I will kill you with my hand,” Lim said, and her horrifying hostility was evident.
The curses that Lim bombarded Baek with were posted on his Facebook page, and it is hard to believe that those words were from a female lawmaker in her 40s.
Lim apologized twice. The DUP also tried to calm the situation. But they were all meaningless attempts. Her two apologies do not appear sincere.
DUP floor leader, Representative Park Jie-won, said the party won’t take any action because Lim offered enough apologies, and his remarks were premature. It is not the DUP, but the people, who will decide whether her apologies were enough or not. It is no wonder many DUP members were concerned that the single yelling match at a bar could cost 2 million votes in the presidential election.
This incident is a sensitive case. Korean society is already fed up with the unreasonable arguments of the hard-core members of the Unified Progressive Party. Although surveys showed that about 70 percent of the people want Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon to give up their lawmaker seats, they insisted on the posts. Then, the public began wondering about the identities of members of the DUP, and the incident involving Lim took place.
If the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance of the UPP is the symbol of the underground pro-North movement, the upper echelon of the National Alliance of Student Representatives turned to the young lawmakers of the DUP. At least, this is how it appeared to the people. In the political arena, image is much more important than facts. It is no wonder that the lawmakers will be asked if they have shown unconditional, blind support for the North Korean regime or not.
The bar in Insa-dong, where the yelling match between Lim and Baek took place, is a place I regularly visit. It is a small space for light drinking. A female owner and a part-time server often work in the kitchen. Lim is a long-time regular of the bar. When she went through a divorce, lost a child and stayed at the Haein Temple, she visited the place from time to time when she felt depressed.
Lim does have some bad drinking habits. When she was drunk and didn’t feel good, she became stubborn. And the next time she returned, she apologized for the other night. Everyone seemed to have some pity for her tragic life. That’s the atmosphere of the bar.
The Friday night when the incident happened, the bar had guests at only two tables. According to the witnesses, Lim, who already had some drinks, was having beer with her aide. They were having two bottles of beer, and her driver just ordered a soda.
When Lim and Baek took photos together and the part-time server erased three photos from Baek’s smartphone, nothing much happened.
The yelling began when Baek identified himself as a defector, saying, “Do you know how the North Korean regime would handle a situation like this? They’d shoot your aide.”
The testimonies vary starting from this point. While Baek claimed he was joking, witnesses said he was provoking Lim and her entourage. After many swear words, Lim left the bar, but Baek and his entourage stayed, received apologies from the bar owner and the server and left after midnight after an hour of the drinking.
Ha gave cool advice to Lim that she should get sober. Maybe that’s true. But it is hard to just let go of her profanity. No matter how drunk she was, she was a politician and she failed to control her emotions to a stranger. The incident will leave a deep scar on the defectors’ hearts. Lim will have to offer more apologies in the future until the defectors will forgive her.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Chul-ho