Lopsided and contradictoryHeritage of Korean Independence (HKI), a 56-year organization to uphold the spirt of the independence movement against Japanese colonial rule, has become divided and disgraced by its president Kim Won-woong’s unilateral ways. He was publicly grabbed by the collar by Kim Im-yong, the grandson of Kim Boong-june, a member of the Cabinet of the Korean Provisional Government, the government-in-exile during the Japanese colonial period.
The president’s name plate was even thrown down by HKI members who raided his office. Kim claimed he grabbed the president out of fury after he abused the organization politically and disgraced the honor of its members. The president of HKI opened a disciplinary committee to reprimand Kim Im-yong. But the meeting turned into mayhem after reformist members charged in and got into a fist fight.
Kim Im-yong’s violence has not been sensible. Still, many side with him and find greater fault with the head. President Kim and the HKI must face reality.
Since he became head of the organization in 2019, Kim has been openly pro-government and made comments favorable to North Korea and against the U.S. to turn the independent organization into a kind of cheerleading group for the government. He launched the Choi Jae-hyung Award without consulting the memorial body, and awarded figures on the ruling front such as former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and former ruling party lawmaker Yoo In-tae. He made up various awards to give out to 77 people. Except for 33 that went to organizations, 44 went to individuals with close ties to the ruling Democratic Party.
He petitioned for a law to remove founding President Syngman Rhee and Ahn Eak-tai, composer of the national anthem, from the National Cemetery. He blocked the funeral car carrying Korean War hero Pail Sun-yup. Instead, he called for the national merit award for Kim Won-bong, who fled to North Korea and received a national merit from Kim Il Sung. He also praised Lee Seok-ki, currently serving a prison term for treason. He even argued that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was better than former President Park Geun-hye. His overt pro-Pyongyang and anti-Washington comments have enraged people. The HKI’s motto is to “contribute to national unity for the country.” But all of his comments and behavior are aimed at dividing the nation.
Kim called the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) a “pro-Japanese” party although he had served senior posts with the party’s predecessors. He explained he only worked for the conservative party to make a living and blindly advocates for the government. With government backing, he has stoked national divide and shamed the honor of our independence fighters. Since HKI has veered away from its original role, Kim is no longer entitled to lead the group. He must apologize for his past behaviors and surrender the title.