Our sons’ disgracesA son of a great man is not necessarily great. But when the son is a respected man, the dignity of the father and son can be respected through generations. As long as the son is decent - not even necessarily respected - the history of the father and son will be preserved.
When the Japanese army invaded Korea in 1592, Go Gyeong-myeong retired from his high-ranking government position and was living in Gwangju, Jeolla. After the Korean military fell, Go and his two sons formed a militia with civilian volunteers. His first son was 38-years-old and the second was 31. The two sons became commanders of the troops. At the battle in Geumsan, the father and the second son were killed in action. The record of “who’s who” of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) remembered the period. “Five to six men from each household volunteered to sacrifice their lives one after another and the loyalty and patriotism of fathers and sons and brothers was revealed. Isn’t it unprecedented in all ages?”
When the 1950-53 Korean War broke out, Mao Zedong was the leader of China. His 28-year-old first son, Mao Anying, volunteered to join the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. Because he was the first son of the Chinese leader, Gen. Peng Dehuai, the commander of the Chinese forces, asked Mao to intervene. Mao, however, refused and said, “He is, after all, the son of Mao Zedong.”
Only a month after joining the Korean War, Mao Anying was killed in a U.S. Air Force strike. Mao, however, did not bring back his son’s body to China. He said other Chinese people also lost their sons in the war. Mao Anying is buried in North Korea and Chinese leaders pay respects to his grave when they visit the North. The dead son is the blood tie between his father’s country and North Korea.
In October 1982, Ronald Reagan was the U.S. president, while his son was a ballet dancer. He was let go by the ballet troupe that he used to work for and his parents offered to help him, but he refused. He said he would soon find a new job and insisted on receiving unemployment benefits. A photo of him standing in a queue to receive the payment was later published on the front pages of newspapers.
Park Chung Hee’s son, Ji-man, used to serve prison terms for using drugs. He troubled the people. With the support of businessmen, he revived economically and now he is a man of wealth with 58 billion won ($51.6 million) in assets. His mother, when she was the first lady, paid much effort to look after poor, powerless people. The society is paying attention to what contributions Park Ji-man, who rose again with the society’s help, will make to the society.
Chun Doo Hwan’s sons built a fortress of wealth with their father’s slush funds. If they stay inside the fortress, they could spend rest of their lives in splendor. Their father did not pay the fines for his corruption convictions and handed down bearer’s bonds to his sons. The Chun presidency had its achievement in history, but the family’s corruption is tainting it. Chun’s coup will never be treated the same as Park Chun Hee’s.
Kim Young-sam’s son was not a bureaucrat, politician or democracy fighter, but he tried to share his father’s power. Sitting in a luxurious hotel room, he pretended as if he were the young president. Some journalists, politicians and government officials surrounded him as if they were Mayflies. The son ended up in prison for receiving bribes, tainting his father’s reform.
The second son of Kim Dae-jung met with businessmen in room saloons in southern Seoul, as the eldest son was a handicapped man and the businessmen preferred him. His apartment storage space was filled with bundles of bills. They totaled 1 billion won. The youngest son hung around with a lobbyist. The brothers ended up in jail and their father, who was the president, had to apologize to the public.
The son of Roh Moo-hyun received millions of dollars from his father’s patron. Roh promoted the image of a “corruption-free president” and he was extremely shocked after it was revealed that his wife and son took money secretly from him. Roh jumped off a cliff.
During the last four years, the blood on the rock must have been cleaned away by the rain, but his cry still remains in the Bongha Village, South Gyeongsang.
Sons of Korean presidents are falling endlessly. It doesn’t matter whether their father won the power with a gun or an election. There are many precedents, but they still fall. Why are they doing so? How many more presidents have to jump off cliffs to end this series of corruptions?
It continues in Korea because the sons often confuse their lives with their fathers’ power. They believe their fathers’ power is theirs. That’s why they inherit dirty money, pretend as if they were another president and receive financial supports from their fathers’ patrons.
The son of Reagan posed for a magazine cover shot by holding condoms to lead the movement against AIDS. For him, his father was his father and he was himself. Because of his son, the father became more respected. But in Korea, the sons of the presidents are eating up their fathers.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin