The wrong way to uniteThe presidential office has angered war veterans and families of soldiers sacrificed in skirmishes with North Korea invited to the Blue House ahead of Memorial Day last week. The guests were given a five-page leaflet containing pictures of President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un holding hands and standing next to each other during summit talks. Some of those who had lost loved ones in the 1950-53 Korean War said they wanted to storm out of the room because they were so upset.
Moon also caused controversy with his Memorial Day speech. He saluted Kim Won-bong, an independence activist who turned into a communist and served a high office in North Korea, as one the founders of the South Korean military. Kim had received the highest merit from North Korean founder Kim Il Sung for his contributions during the Korean War.
Memorial Day pays respect to soldiers who have fallen in service of their country. Yet the commander in chief called a commander of North Korea’s military the creator of the South Korean military. He would not have made that comment if he had respect for war veterans and their families.
Moon may have made the connection in order to highlight his call for unity and his emphasis that “there cannot be left or right in the practice of patriotism.” Few would argue with the need for harmony and unity.
In a recent cabinet meeting, he expressed concern about the extreme politics that have been upsetting the country. But the Blue House and president only ended up fanning the divide. They provoked the far right, which now demands that the “pro-North Korea” president resign.
By dumping all the blame on the main conservative party, the president has only deepened the ideological divide and the conservatives’ disdain for his pro-labor economic policies, attitude toward North Korea and obsession with cracking down on past wrongdoings.
If the administration aspires to create a united society, it should first make sure it does not aggravate the divide.
The presidential office must seek balance and neutrality. Rhetoric does not end the politics of division and bring about unity.
It is hard to seek support for unity when the ruling power makes enemies with those who do not agree with its philosophy and policies.
JoongAng Sunday, June 8, Page 30