Ideology trumps facts in debates“Which side are you on?”
“Are you a friend or enemy?”
I am saddened whenever someone demands that I answer these questions. It is uncomfortable, unpleasant and very awkward to be forced to pick a side. It feels as if my conscience and ideology are being judged and my intelligence and intellect are insulted. In a democratic country where freedom of ideology and conscience are protected as constitutional values, and in a time of peace, not war, why are we forced to make a confession about our consciences?
If the contents of the transcript released by the security agency are true, Lee Seok-ki, a Unified Progressive Party lawmaker, is clearly a “commie.” He must be a North Korean sympathizer to the core. He reiterates Pyongyang’s claims and even mimics the North Koran dialect. It is truly scandalous that such a pro-Pyongyang figure has exploited a blind spot in the law and became a member of the National Assembly. No citizen of the Republic of Korea should protect and defend him. He should be judged by the law and pay the price. Based on the transcript, his ideological color is incontestable. We don’t even need to contemplate which side he has chosen.
But if we consider the charges of insurrection that the National Intelligence Service and the prosecution claim, it’s a different story. It is doubtful if he and his colleagues can really be charged as rebels plotting high treason and a subversive insurrection based only on some words and arguments in their conversations.
While the NIS itself is in a controversy about interference in a presidential election, it has revealed a major security case involving an incumbent lawmaker. Some reasonably suspect that the NIS may be trying to avoid reforms by reminding the public of its raison d’etre. But few people openly discuss their doubts about the NIS because Lee Seok-ki and his group have been absurdly foolish. If you wonder aloud about the intentions of the NIS, you may be suspected as being on Lee Seok-ki’s side.
Still, we are forced to take sides. We should not be lured by pieces of information thrown by the NIS and be wary of attempts to fool us. We should keep calm and wait for a court decision, trusting the judiciary even if that takes time.
But there is another issue, separate from the Lee Seok-ki case, awaiting a court ruling. The documentary film “Project Cheonan” is under a court injunction barring its release. The sinking of our warship Cheonan was a trauma for our society. Whether you believe the government’s statement that North Korea was responsible for the sinking has become a matter of conviction and ideology rather than rational thinking. Unless you are willing to be branded a Pyongyang sympathizer, you cannot openly say that you don’t believe the government’s conclusions. Even a candidate for the Constitutional Court could not avoid the question, “Do you believe North Korea is responsible for the sinking of Cheonan?” He answered, “I trust the government’s statements, but since I did not witness the incident, I cannot be sure,” and his candidacy was rejected.
The producers of “Project Cheonan” explain that the movie is about communications in Korean society, where people cannot openly raise doubts about government statements. The movie deals with the testimony of people who assert theories about the ship running aground or running aground followed by a collision. Then defamation suits were filed. The Korea Media Rating Board rated the movie “suitable for 12 and over,” but naval officers and families of sailors who died on the corvette asked the court to suppress the film. The case is under review at the Goyang branch of the Uijeongbu District Court. The decision is due before the September 5th release date of the film.
“Fahrenheit 9/11,” a documentary film alleging a conspiracy surrounding the September 11 terror attacks, was released in the United States without a problem. Neither the government nor the families of the victim protested. An Iraq War veteran filed a libel suit against the director, Michael Moore, but lost. Choice and evaluation are up to the audience. It doesn’t make sense to ban the release of the film altogether.
If you prohibit questions, communication is not possible. A society where we are not allowed to ask questions is dead. It may be peaceful on the surface, but it can crumble any time. A healthy society does not force you to choose a side and allows you to question and suspect even if your doubts may be uncomfortable or create noises.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo
BY Bae Myung-bok