Unfair and hypocritical“Blood and tears from a multitude of people were behind (South Korea’s) democracy movement. My wife and I are embarrassed to still be living and cannot be fit to share national merit,” wrote former lawmaker Kim Young-hwan.
A number of lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), including Rep. Sul Hoon, motioned a bill proposing to offer family members of those who had fought during the democracy movement privileges in education and employment in honor of their contribution to the country. In the face of strong criticism, they withdrew the bill. The legislation attempt came as public rage was simmering over hypocritical practices by key figures in the government, self-dubbed as clean and fair. On Facebook, Kim posted pictures of certificates of national merits he and his wife were forgoing. As a Yonsei University student, Kim was imprisoned for demonstrating against the military regime. He also was arrested for the Gwangju Democracy Movement with his wife. He and his wife were awarded national merits under dissident-turned-President Kim Dae-jung.
“The talk of honoring and supporting people who had been involved in the democracy movement has caused discomfort. We did not fight for the country’s democracy for rewards,” he wrote. “People who participated in the April 19, 1961 protests, civilians who suffered during the Gwangju crackdown, and the people who supported and joined the June 1987 rallies, should all enjoy the merits,” he continued. “The sight of receding in democracy, prevalent corruption and a resurgence in privileges and irregularities have brought about deep rage over the hypocrisy of past comrades of the democracy movement,” he added.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Sul and 72 others from the DP proposes to bestow privileges in schooling and hiring and support in medical and housing for families of awardees of national merits in democracy. They retracted the bill for causing controversy, but did not apologize.
People have become outraged by the thought of extra benefits for the families of democracy activists who now command higher status politically, socially and economically. As Kim has pointed out, democracy of this nation was achieved not by a particular group or force but by many people.
It was the ordinary masses who helped democracy activists at every turning point. Office workers handed out water and bread along with their cheers to demonstrators of June 1987. During the candlelight vigils of 2016 which led to the ousting of President Park Geun-hye, housewives joined the rallies with young children in strollers. But no one demands recognition or reward for their acts.
It is a pity that those who should be shameful know no shame. Respect and recognition will naturally follow if an honorable deed is accompanied by modesty.