It’s not about revolutionIt might not make sense, but somehow, I cannot help but feel that the establishment in Korea is now the anti-Park protesters gathering in downtown Seoul every weekend. As I visited both sides of the protest at Gwanghwamun and Sungnyemun on Saturday, I saw the faces of triumph from people opposing the president. The main event in the evening began with a declaration: “We have realized that we are strong. We can drive out the outrageous power. We can bring springtime.”
The underlying sentiment was optimism that President Park Geun-hye would be impeached and arrested. They were confident that the Constitutional Court would approve the legislature’s impeachment about 10 days from now. Among the hundreds of thousands of people, I met some gathering to drink. They were already popping champagne.
On the other side of the protest buffer zone were people supporting the president. During that event held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., I didn’t see anyone drinking. While most of the people on the anti-Park side were seated, the pro-Park group was standing — out of anxiety, aggression and a victim mentality. They were late to begin their public-square politics, but they were full of fighting spirit.
Still, it was unpleasant to have one pro-Park woman in her 60s make a rude attempt at taking away my notebook. “Reporters are trash,”
she shouted. “They should not be trusted.” She vented that supporters of the president were neglected and ridiculed. At the podium, speakers were using grossly terrifying language. “Let’s knock down the candlelight traitors who turned the Republic of Korea into a mess!” they shouted, referring to their counterparts in the opposition who use candles in their protest.
What concerned me was the choice of language on both sides. The candlelight group said, “Darkness cannot defeat light,” while the pro-Park group called the other side the “children of darkness.” In calling the other side darkness, both claim to be light. Once it becomes a battle between light and darkness, it will go on until the other side is extinguished, and that could lead to destruction for all. Historical disputes, ideological fights and class struggles are good examples. When power and organization get involved, and then violence is added, a revolutionary war can occur.
The impeachment of Park Geun-hye is about an incompetent and foolish president violating the Constitution and abusing her power. The National Assembly, Constitutional Court and special prosecutors are all reviewing the legality and constitutionality of the president’s conduct.
The work of constitutional institutions is complete when citizens accept the outcome. When the people refuse, it can mean suspension of constitutional governance. The American Civil War broke out when the South refused to abide by President Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves. No Korean in their right mind would think a civil war is possible over Park’s impeachment.
While public sentiment can make or break an administration, the people have no right to override the constitution. President Park’s incompetence and illegal actions should not be expanded to an identity issue as in history, ideology or class. Contests of identity should gradually progress within the boundaries of education and culture over time. We are not starting a revolution. We want to address the problem politically, targeting Park’s unconstitutional conduct and illegal actions. At this point, I want to introduce a way for both sides to coexist without abandoning their faith.
What we need now is tolerance. It means forgiveness, generosity and understanding, and it originates from patience and endurance. We need to endure in order to understand. You may not like someone, but you bear with them because you have to live together. In life, we need tolerance the most when we deal with our spouses, siblings, parents and children.
Tolerance is also needed in the public square. Looking into the world of the people on each side, I could see how they could compromise. Many of the Park supporters were angry because the president was insulted, but they don’t mean to blindly defend her.
Many participants in the anti-Park rally did not want themselves to be seen as a group that takes the identity and security of the country lightly. The young people carrying our national flags with the yellow ribbon mourning victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy fall into this category.
Today is the 98th anniversary of the start of the independence movement, when our ancestors gathered in central Seoul and raised their voices for liberation. What are we fighting for now?
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 27, Page 34