Liberal parties join forces for Gwangju song

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Liberal parties join forces for Gwangju song

After the Park Geun-hye government’s decision not to make “March of the Beloved” the official theme song of the 1980 uprising in Gwangju, opponents have come together to demand the resignation of the ministry chief.

A joint move by the Minjoo Party of Korea, the largest political body with 123 lawmakers-elect, and the People’s Party with 38 lawmakers-elect, comes on the heel of the decision by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs on Sunday that it would not require participants to sing the song “March for the Beloved” during a 36th anniversary ceremony for the May 18 Democratization Movement scheduled today. The decision shattered expectations among liberal lawmakers-elect and led the two parties to demand the dismissal of the ministry chief, Park Sung-choon, former 9th division commander of the army.

“March for the Beloved” was written in 1982 for the posthumous wedding ceremony of two protestors who were killed by military forces during the 1980 Gwangju uprising. Hundreds of civilians were estimated to have died in the suppression of the uprising against the authoritarian Chun Doo-hwan regime, and the song became symbolic of struggle against the military government by student activists in the 1980s.

If put into action, this motion will mark the first political cooperation by the two parties after the April 13 general election, in which the Minjoo won an upset victory against the ruling Saenuri Party and the People’s Party earned a sizable gain as a third party.

Park Jie-won, floor leader of the People’s Party, criticized the government’s stance, saying it was tantamount to “tearing apart a joint agreement” forged in a meeting among President Park Geun-hye and floor leaders of the three major parties last Friday.

“We will go our way (to correct the course),” said the veteran lawmaker Monday, who added he would work to submit a resolution to dismiss Park as well as a bill to designate “March for the Beloved” as the uprising’s official theme.

Expectation was high that the government would require ceremony participants, most of whom are relatives of the victims, to sing the song just as the national anthem is required for government-sponsored commemorations. It was thought that the restoration of “March for the Beloved” as an official theme would be the realization of bipartisan governance, as promised by President Park and party floor leaders during the Friday meeting.

Instead, the Veteran Affairs Ministry stated it would play the chorus and participants who wish to sing along can do so.

Opponents of the song say it has links to North Korea, citing its use as background music in a 1991 film. In 1997, the government designated May 18 an official commemoration day for the democracy movement. Until 2008, singing the song was required during the state-sponsored ceremony.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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