How to treat your predecessors

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How to treat your predecessors


The ongoing efforts to eradicate longstanding ills have an echo 30 years ago in the aftermath of the Fifth Republic. In 1989, former president Chun Doo Hwan stood as a witness in a National Assembly hearing on the Fifth Republic. He spoke in his signature low voice and adopted a patronizing attitude. He said that the order to fire on protesters during the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement was an “invocation of self-defense power,” which led to a commotion.

Democratic Justice Party lawmakers guarded Chun and lawmaker Roh Moo-hyun rose and shouted, “You think Chun Doo Hwan is still your boss?” Amid the disturbance, Chun left, and Roh was furious and threw a nameplate. Considering the famous incident, Roh Moo-hyun and Chun Doo Hwan cannot be close.

However, Roh Moo-hyun was elected president. He invited Chun to the Blue House on January 13, 2004, and October 10, 2006. Other predecessors, including Kim Dae-jung, were also in attendance.

President Kim Dae-jung invited former presidents most often. At the first Blue House invitation on August 1, 1998, Chun Doo-hwan told President Kim, “Thank you for inviting me,” in a loud voice. At first, it must have been out of courtesy, but later, Chun recalled that former presidents were happiest during the Kim Dae-jung administration. Who was Chun Doo-hwan to President Kim Dae-jung? Chun framed Kim with a charge of conspiring to lead a rebellion and attempted to execute him. It was a plus, not a minus, to Kim’s devotion for integration to embrace Chun.

However, all these are bygone memories. In the Lee Myung-bak administration, Kim Young-sam and Chun Doo-hwan were invited once on April 2010, and Park Geun-hye never invited former presidents. Now, President Moon Jae-in has no one to send an invitation to. Roh Tae-woo is ill, and a meeting with Chun alone is meaningless.

It is peculiar that the president cannot meet with his predecessors even if he wants to because they are in prison. Power is always heartless, but I am surprised at the prosecutors’ mastery over Lee Myung-bak, who left office six years ago.

I want to clarify that this view is unrelated to my support or opposition for detaining Lee Myung-bak. In fact, 11 billion won in alleged bribes and 35 billion won worth of embezzlement should not be overlooked. But I am dizzy trying to make a distinction between “delayed justice” and “delayed retaliation.”

JoongAng Sunday, March 24, Page 35

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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