Presidential agony in TiananmenOn Thursday, President Park Geun-hye will stand at Tiananmen in Beijing for the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of Victory Day. She is the first Korean president to attend, a diplomatic move based on political, economic and security cooperation as well as the shared value of resistance against Japan. But it shouldn’t stop there. For the president, Tiananmen should have much more meaning.
Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, the gate was originally named Chengtianmen, or the Gate of Accepting the Heavenly Mandate. It was reconstructed in 1651 during the Qing Dynasty and renamed Tiananmen, which is derived from the phrase “receiving the mandate from heaven and pacifying the dynasty.” A modern interpretation of the name would be the revival of Sino-centrism, which Chinese President Xi Jinping passionately advocates. He believes China’s dominance in the world is its destiny.
About 300 meters (980 feet) from Tiananmen is the National Museum of China, where Xi and six standing members of the Politburo gathered in late 2013 after he became general secretary of the Communist Party and pledged to revive China. Hopefully, the museum beyond the military parade will inspire President Park to think about the revival of the Korean people.
Tiananmen was where Chinese emperors inspected their troops before they left for battle or upon returning after victory. President Park needs to think about Korea’s defense and foreign policy strategies. It would be even better if her contemplation marks the beginning of a self-reliant national defense not dependent on the United States.
There are five gates under the tower of Tiananmen. The biggest one in the center was reserved exclusively for the emperor. Officials in the Ming and Qing courts and envoys from other countries used the four side gates to enter the Meridian Gate, the main entrance to the Forbidden City. Our Korean ancestors who engaged in tributary foreign policy were no exceptions. They sometimes had to wait for months to meet the emperor. The president needs to listen to the heavy and exhausted footsteps of our ancestors and consider what she can do for the next generation.
In the 1950s, Kim Il Sung stood by Mao Zedong twice to view the military parade, demonstrating a blood brotherhood. President Park will stand in that same place. Tiananmen symbolizes the harsh reality of the international community with no eternal enemy or friend. That’s why Park must think about reunification. And I hope it can begin with the president stretching out her hand to North Korean Workers’ Party secretary Choe Ryong-hae, who may be standing right behind her. The two Koreas had high-level inter-Korean contact, drew out an agreement and set a conciliatory mood. Who knows, a handshake may be the prelude to reunification.
The author is the Beijing correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 29, Page 26
by CHOI HYUNG-KYU