Stuck in past grudgesThe newly elected leadership of the Democratic Party led by chairman Kim Han-gill paid their respects at the National Cemetery in southern Seoul yesterday. But they stopped at the grave of the late President Kim Dae-jung after skipping the graves of founding president Syngman Rhee and former president Park Chung Hee. That clearly shows that they still adhere to ideological factionalism deep-rooted in our history.
The DP is not a mere political or civic group. The liberal party took power twice - in 1997 and 2002. With 127 seats in the National Assembly, it receives as much as 20 billion won ($18.36 million) in subsidies from state coffers. Simply put, the party is a major political force in the country. The new DP chairman even wrote in a visitor’s book at the cemetery, “I will help reinvent our party to serve as a huge pillar propping up the Republic of Korea.”
A major political party’s perspective on our nation’s history since its founding as a modern state has to have a big impact on society as a whole. That’s why the act of paying respects to former presidents carries great significance. Presidents Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee and Kim Dae-jung are all buried at the cemetery not as former heads of political parties but as leaders of the nation. Yet the graves of former conservative presidents like Rhee and Park have been ignored by a number of DP leaders who are locked in a prison of sectarianism in sharp contrast to President Park Geun-hye, who paid sincere respects at the graves of former liberal presidents like Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun after her election last December. The Democratic Party presidential candidate from last year, Moon Jae-in, also turned away from the graves of former presidents Rhee and Park.
The DP leaders must learn lessons from their former leader, President Kim Dae-jung, who visited not only Park’s grave but also his birthplace. The late President Kim was a political mentor for new DP leader Kim Han-gill. We wonder what important qualities he has drawn from his political guru. Of course, we understand all the suffering he had to experience when his father led a socialist party during Park Chung Hee’s rule in the ’60s and ’70s. Yet he must throw off the shackles of his past.
The DP’s party platform proclaims it’s a party for 99 percent of the people. Such misleading rhetoric doesn’t fit the image of a responsible political party either.