North Gyeongsang cancels Park-related events

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North Gyeongsang cancels Park-related events

The North Gyeongsang provincial government decided to cancel its events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of former President Park Chung Hee’s birth.

“People will not be happy with the fact that the provincial government funds are to be used for the events dedicated to Park,” said Ahn Seong-ryeol, an official of the policy planning department of the North Gyeongsang provincial government. “We decided not to pursue the events that may provoke disagreements and divisions among the people.”

The North Gyeongsang provincial government was funding and organizing this year events dedicated to Park, who was born in North Gyeongsang’s Gumi on Nov. 14, 1917.

It has already launched a 200 million won ($178,806) production of medals dedicated to Park and is coordinating a 280 million won essay contest on Park and former President Kim Dae-jung. Additional events planned from this month until December were productions of a documentary and newspapers dedicated to his achievements and a concert. The provincial government had set aside a budget of 300 million won for the documentary production, 300 million won for the newspapers and 100 million won for the concert.

“We cannot cancel projects that we have already launched, like the medals dedicated to Park and the essay contest,” Ahn said. “But all the others have been cancelled.”

Former President Park was the third president of the country who was in office from 1963 to 1979, when he was assassinated. His leadership is both criticized as a development-driven dictatorship and celebrated for the economic growth the country experienced during his tenure.

The controversy surrounding the former leader heightened after his daughter, former President Park Geun-hye, was impeached over a corruption scandal. President Moon Jae-in was elected president in a snap election in May. The provincial government had also planned to fund a 50 million won memorial service for the centennial of Park’s birth on Nov. 14. It is likely not going to fund it anymore, it said.

“These projects may spur political disagreement among the people,” said an official of the provincial government who asked not to be named. “They were planned in the former administration and will need to be adjusted.”

The official said the provincial government first discussed canceling the events dedicated to Park around May.

“I think the North Gyeongsang provincial government is responding flexibly to the changing political situations at hand,” said Cho Geun-rae, secretary-general of the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice’s Gumi branch office.

“It’s disappointing to see the provincial government cancel all these events just because the administration changed,” said a professor of a university based in North Gyeongsang.

The Gumi city government, on the other hand, said it will host the events dedicated to Park Chung Hee.

Until the end of the year, it will spend 100 million won to manufacture a collection of letters and paintings by Park, 150 million won to create a park dedicated to Park, 60 million won to host a photo exhibition on Park, 90 million won to publish a book on Park’s lifetime, 60 million won to create a play dedicated to Park, 80 million won to hold a concert, 50 million on a musical and 30 million won on lectures on Park.

The city government will also host the memorial service for Park’s birth on Nov. 14 and another concert, which the North Gyeongsang provincial government will not fund anymore. The city government will spend 50 million won to host the memorial service and 100 million won for the concert.

“The provincial government’s decision is not at all a welcoming one for the Gumi city government,” said an official of the city government. “But regardless of the provincial government’s decision, we will host the events we have planned, even if it means downscaling some of them.”

“Commemorating a former president is a separate matter from politics,” said an official of the Gumi city government. “People may have differing opinions on Park, but he was the president who led the country through its hardest years.”

BY KIM YOUN-HO [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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