Fueling national divisionThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the Blue House continue demonstrating totally different attitudes about the deaths of the late Korean War hero Gen. Paik Sun-yup and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The DP and Blue House did not even issue a commemorative statement for Korea’s first four-star general, while treating Park as a national hero despite his alleged sexual misconduct with one of his secretaries. Park committed suicide Thursday without making any statement about the sexual offense allegations.
The Moon Jae-in administration plans to hold a funeral administered by the Army — not the Armed Forces — and bury the remains of the general’s body in the National Cemetery in Daejeon, instead of in Seoul. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs cited a “dearth of space in Seoul National Cemetery” and “Gen. Paik’s wish to be buried in the Daejeon National Cemetery.” Despite the past conservative administrations’ insistence that someday he be buried in Seoul Cemetery, the liberal Moon administration cancelled the plan after accepting DP lawmakers’ biased criticisms of Paik as a “pro-Japanese soldier.” It is regrettable that General Paik chose the Daejeon Cemetery given such attacks from the government and ruling party.
A bigger problem is the possibility of his grave being dug up and relocated when a DP-proposed bill aimed at removing graves of pro-Japanese figures from national cemeteries is passed in the National Assembly. It is true that General Paik served as an officer of the Manchukuo Imperial Army of Japan in 1943. At the time, however, Korea’s independence fighters had already left Manchuria, as seen in his recollection saying that he only fought against the Eighth Route Army, China’s Communist forces. Even if he had flaws, they do not outweigh the patriotism he showed during the 1950-53 Korean War as a commander. And yet, the ruling party did not make any statement on his death.
The DP is engrossed with Mayor Park’s death, even setting up a memorial altar. In a eulogy, DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan praised his efforts as a civic activist and mayor to advance our society by championing the underprivileged. Even when allegations of sexual harassment were made public Monday, the Blue House kept mum. Moon sent his chief of staff to Park’s funeral, but not to the general’s.
The Army headquarters did not even install a memorial altar for the war hero. As a result, ordinary citizens voluntarily set up an altar on Gwanghwamun Square. We are deeply concerned about the government’s starkly different approaches to a mayor, who apparently killed himself over a sexual abuse scandal, and a war hero, who killed enemies to protect the country.