Jung Chung-rae, one of the five members on the supreme council in the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), asked in a radio interview, “Could a Jew pay tribute to Hitler’s tomb?” - an outrageous reference to the party’s newly elected Chairman Moon Jae-in’s visit to the graves of former Presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee. He made the trip to the National Cemetery on Monday, a day after his election.
Chung’s remarks in his Tuesday radio interview dumbfound us, as we cannot but cast doubt on his qualifications as a leader now.
The two presidents are widely respected - and criticized - for the merits and demerits of their governance: the development of the nation amid the chaos after our liberation from Japan, and the rags-to-riches turnaround of our economy through industrialization - despite their stigma as authoritarian leaders. Nevertheless, Chung’s comparison of the two presidents with Adolf Hitler, the Nazi war criminal, went too far. Despite the moderator demanding an answer for Chung’s statement, the lawmaker never budged, laying bare his outmoded political view based on the definition that his opponents are “absolute evil.”
Chung is free to believe that the current conservative government stopped short of apologizing for the October Restoration, in which President Park Chung Hee assumed dictatorial powers in a 1972 coup. Chung is free to reject Moon’s idea of paying his respects at the grave of the former president. But it is utterly shameful for him to attack the party’s new chairman for such a brave decision. Chung’s words threw a wet blanket on the party’s attempts to reshape itself before the next election.
Actually, Moon himself refused to pay homage to the tombs of the two former presidents when he was the opposition’s presidential candidate two years ago. This time, however, he must confront the public’s growing demand for a new kind of politics, based on the spirit of reconciliation. Considering the change in the public’s attitude toward the NPAD after Moon’s visit, we hope Chung will broaden his narrow mind and behave like a professional.
Chairman Moon’s behavior also leaves room for repair. He unilaterally pushed forward a visit to the cemetery without persuading other members of the council to join him. As a result, no supreme council member followed in Moon’s footsteps. If he does not make efforts to encourage others to join his crusade, it will lead to chaos whenever he tries to make a decision. We hope he facilitates communication with others.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 11, Page 34