Beyond divisionsLast year, the ruling and opposition parties pledged a grand integration of the people, but the nation has become even more divided. Antagonism to President Park Geun-hye is now turning into hatred. The spokesman of the opposition party even criticized Park’s ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game. The Korea Baseball Organization requested her participation, and a former president from the Democratic Party had done the honors before. Dark passions are threatening to take over rationality in our politics and society.
The Saenuri Party has a kind of pre-existing original sin when it comes to intervention by the intelligence agency in presidential elections. In 1997, the chief of the Agency for National Security Planning, Kwon Young-hae, initiated the so-called North Wind operation. The intelligence agency used taxpayer money to bribe liars to attack then-presidential candidate Kim Dae-jung. Kwon was sentenced to five years in prison. But these days, he appears on television and talks about, of all things, NIS reform. It’s really absurd. Considering its problem with that original sin, the Saenuri Party administration should have told NIS officials last year to keep their hands off the presidential election. There can always be agents who are overly zealous or make misjudgments. Postings on the Internet mentioning a specific presidential candidate should never be allowed. Whether there’s one or 100, it would cause controversy.
It’s not right for the ruling Saenuri Party to attack the Democratic Party for not conceding the outcome of the election considering the NIS interference. While the opposition is making harsh attacks, they are actually not denying the election results completely. Rejecting the election outcome would mean not recognizing Park as president and not cooperating with parliamentary inspections on the ministers appointed by Park. The Democratic Party is engaging in parliamentary activities, so they are not denying the results of the presidential election.
The DP also has a record of shady dealings during presidential elections. In April 2002, its lawmaker Sul Hoon claimed that former Grand National Party Chairman Lee Hoi-chang had received $200,000 from lobbyist Choi Kyu-sun. That was a fabrication.
After the election, Sul disclosed shocking details at his trial. The Blue House political affairs secretary provided him with the charges against Lee, which he merely read out at a press conference. The presidential secretary directed the show and Sul was merely a performer. The director went abroad and his actor received a suspended prison term of a year and a half.
After the Blue House secretary from the Democratic Party engineered the dirty presidential campaign trick, President Roh Moo-hyun didn’t apologize. Park Ji-won was the Blue House chief of staff who gave orders to the political affairs secretary. Park and Sul have been making television appearances these days condemning the NIS for its behavior last December. Sul even mentioned denying the legitimacy of the victory. The country is falling into absurdity.
The prosecution and the top spy agency are fighting intensely. Prosecutors claim it was an organized election intervention last year, while the NIS argues it was a trivial deviation of a few employees. When their positions collide, society needs to calmly wait for the decision of the judiciary. Neither the president nor the legislature should get involved. Moreover, the opposition party used to insist that the president should not mention specific cases as her comments may affect an investigation or decision. But now, they demand the president to acknowledge and apologize. That’s like asking her to rupture the separation of the three powers.
A kind of free-for-all is occurring across the country. Regions are confronting one another, powers are contesting one another and the past and present are getting all mixed up. The origin of the scuffles is ideology. The community is divided over how we perceive the foundation and development of South and North Korea and how we should deal with the North. After all, division created ideologies, which are also linked to regions. As long as North Korea exists, the thorny vine of discord will never shrivel.
We need reunification to bring South Koreans together. A liberal, democratic reunification would get rid of ideological and regional discord. The progressive group could finally break free from the ideological shackles of being pro-North Korea.
By parting with ideological schisms, progressives can return to the principles of democracy.
Once the country is unified, the whole nation will change. The perspective of South Korea would expand to the entire peninsula, beyond the three northeastern provinces of China. The key national agenda will change as well.
Now, all our energy is focused on 50 million South Korean citizens. We fight over how to make ourselves richer, and who gets to become richer than others. But unification would expand this concern to 75 million.
The Honam (South and North Jeolla) and Yeongnam (South and North Gyeongsang) regions are like sparrows competing over a branch. After unification, our leaders would have to become hawks. They would leave the forest of sparrows and fly up the cliff of the Korean Peninsula.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin