A moment for harmonyPresident Moon Jae-in pushed aside personal feelings and kept to formalities by inviting former President Lee Myung-bak to the opening and closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Lee, who is expected to be summoned by prosecutors after the Games for alleged irregular involvements while in office, accepted the invitation.
It is a ceremonial duty for former state leaders to attend a state-sponsored international event. Moreover, Lee was in office when the country applied to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. He played a major role by seeking support from foreign leaders when they met and flew to South Africa in July 2011 for the International Olympic Committee convention where Pyeongchang was chosen to host the 2018 Winter Games.
Moon spoke highly of Lee’s contribution and sent his aide to formally deliver the invitation despite warnings against the move from some in the ruling party. Lee said it would be disrespectful to the people to reject the invitation out of political reasons. Even retired, a former president has the duty to be involved in important national affairs.
What should be normal has made news because of the public face-off between the two. Prosecutors, the tax authority and the national spy agency have ganged up on Lee and members of his administration as the liberal government probes into the wrongdoings that occurred during both Park Geun-hye’s and Lee’s stints as president. Lee accused Moon for coming after him out of a grudge for the death of former President Roh Moo-hyun, his longtime friend and boss, while Moon, through his spokesman, expressed anger about the accusation.
It was disheartening for the public to witness the violent exchange of words between the current and former presidents. Moon and Lee standing together at the VIP podium during the opening ceremony must clear the air.
Past wrongs must be exposed and corrected. But the act must be carried out for the purpose of reform and not revenge. The Blue House must uphold the tradition of paying respect to former presidents. Otherwise, the rendezvous would end up just as another political show.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 1, Page 30