Military poorly treated in Korea
Older people remember how students were mobilized for various events. Until the 1980s, thousands of middle and high school students were called to welcome the president. When I was in middle school, I was one of the students standing in the streets around Gwanghwamun. When the black motorcade carrying the president passed by, the students frantically waved flags. We were only happy to finally go home.
The Armed Forces Day parade on Oct. 1 was one of the events where students were mobilized. Tens of thousands of soldiers would march from Yeouido Square to downtown Seoul. Soldiers used to march in straight lines and rows in close formation. The close formation was the best tactic in the days of fighting with swords and shields until the modern era of conventional firearms. But after the invention of the machine gun, it became a suicidal act.
Perhaps because of the unpleasant memories of student mobilization and military dictatorship, Koreans are not so fond of military parades. But there is nothing wrong with praising and paying respect to the proud soldiers who risk their lives for the nation. A military parade is very effective in raising the morale of an army.
In November 1941, in the middle of World War II, the Soviet capital of Moscow was on the verge of falling to Germany. They said that it would collapse in two months. But Soviet leader Stalin ordered an unplanned military parade, which was broadcast live on television. Hitler felt insulted and ordered an attack on the capital, sure that the German forces would win. But the outcome was just the opposite. After the military parade, the Russian soldiers had high morale and fought back fiercely.
So most countries hold a splendid military parade for Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day celebrations. Other holidays, such as Independence Day, are also highlighted by military parades. They are proof of people’s affection for the armed forces.
President Park Geun-hye is to attend the military parade for China’s Victory Day on Sept. 3. To show its national strength, Beijing is preparing the most impressive parade.
Until the late ’80s, Korea was no different. But since the Roh Tae-woo administration, the National Armed Forces Day parade only happened once every three years. Then in 1993, it was replaced by a simple ceremony in Gyeryongdae, South Chungcheong. A street parade was held only once every five years. The military is being poorly treated.
As we have seen in the confrontation with North Korea, the military is our trustworthy shield that endures sacrifice. It’s been 22 years since the first civilian administration was elected. It is about time we remove the scarlet letter of “anti-democracy” from the military.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoogAng Ilbo
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 31, Page 28
by NAM JEONG-HO