No political exploitation, pleaseNever in recent years has the country been so united in pushing for a monumental social paradigm change than since the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry. The will to change was planted in everyone’s minds as they watched the dismal events unfold on the day the ferry sank with hundreds of high school students on board. Since then, the selfish and shameful flight of the captain and the crew without any care for the majority of passengers kept below deck has emerged, along with the greed of the shipowner who habitually broke laws to make a profit, the shady relationship between the shipping industry and bureaucrats, and the impotence of a government that has done nothing right in coping with the disaster.
But some people regard the situation from an entirely different perspective. Opposition forces are poised to use the tragedy as a windfall to defeat the ruling party in the June local elections and demoralize the government. They are disgracing the name of liberals and underestimating voters if they think they can sell such cheap political cards under the pretext of acting on behalf of the people.
The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union has a memorial video clip on its website likening the students of Danwon High School who died in the sunken ship to Kim Ju-yeol and Park Jong-cheol, student activists who died protesting the authoritarian government in 1960 and 1987, whose names symbolize student martyrdom in democracy movements. “You are no different from Kim whose body was found on the coast of Masan with pieces of artillery shell in his eye and head. It was the deed of the Syngman Rhee government. You may be Park Jong-cheol, the Seoul National University student who was tortured and killed by intelligence officers. That was the deed of the Chun Doo-hwan government. This is no nation. It is a massacre from the impotent government of Park Geun-hye,” says the video footage. The teachers’ union group is well known for its violent rhetoric.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions handed out leaflets urging people to transform grief into rage and act out against the government and president. A group of sympathizers to the so-called Mother’s Yellow Ribbon Campaign has been organizing flash-mob rallies through social networks calling for the overthrow of the government. A well-known intellectual who said that North Korea could not be blamed for the sinking of the Cheonan warship asked people to join him to demand the president step down and take responsibility for the young lives lost at sea. They are all totally missing the point.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 8, Page 34