Giving a medal of honor to opponents

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Giving a medal of honor to opponents

Lee Sang-eon

The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.

The storming of the Bastille as taught in world history class can be an example of misrepresented history. Many people would regard the attack by Parisians on the old fortress used as a state prison just as a symbol of revolutionary struggle, or the flashpoint of the French Revolution to end the corrupt monarchy.

The Bastille indeed represented royal authority in the center of Paris. But at the time of the storming on July 14, 1789, the prison had just seven inmates. According to “French Revolution” by Professor Joo Myung-chul, the seven inmates included Auguste-Claude Tavenier who had tried to assassinate Louis XV; a lunatic nobleman imprisoned at the request of his family; and an aristocrat accused of murder in addition to four forgers.

The insurgents had not invaded the prison to release the prisoners, but to steal ammunition stocked in the prison. After occupying several military bases in Paris, the revolutionaries had learned where the ammunition was hidden.
After a negotiations between Cargo Truckers Solidarity and the government over the permanent implementation of the “freight rate system” failed on Wednesday, representatives of the union leave, complaining about the hardline stance of the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration. [YONHAP]

The armed civilians also did not immediately go on the attack. They attempted to negotiate with prison governor Bernard-Rene de Launay. They promised to leave quietly if they got what they wanted. But as soon as a deal was made, gunshots went off. It was unclear who fired first. Upon gunfire, about 1000 citizens stormed into the fortress out of fury. Launay was brutally killed.

The skirmish killed 98 citizens. The fall of the Bastille was the first case where ordinary citizens of Paris got involved in a revolution against the monarch and nobility. The event built the justice for the revolution. Why the fortress had been attacked and why the guard had to be killed did not matter. What was important was that the storming became a critical point in a historical development. It is how July 14 has become the French national holiday — Bastille Day.

Any revolutionaries desiring to upend the existing order need a strong cause. The biggest cause would be the tyranny of the sitting power. Revolutionaries don’t fear persecution or disadvantage from the law. Many would accept it as a badge of honor. Most political dissidents had served prison terms and they speak of their punishments with pride.

Their struggle against oppression can sell well. MBC, one of the Korea’s major broadcasters, has seen viewership of its prime news soar after its reporter was excluded from the presidential press corps accompanying President Yoon Suk-yeol to overseas trips. After MBC reported the president’s hot mic moment in New York — and the punitive action by the presidential office — its news drew twice was many viewers. Fewer people are complaining of biased reporting by the anti-Yoon broadcaster. It has gained fans for standing up to the sitting power. A YouTube channel is under investigation for spreading false news about the president and Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon having a drinking binge with partners from a top law firm. Yet the channel has been receiving a flood of donations. Sensational reporting makes money and popularity.

The Communist Party of China is expert in propaganda. It manipulates public opinion, psychology and laws to prevail over the other party in conflicts at home and abroad. It sets the playing field entirely unfavorable for the other party to isolate and defeat it. Korea also was defeated by China over the conflict related to the deployment of the Thaad missile defense system in the country.

President Yoon waging a war with the supermajority opposition and hostile media faces another opponent — labor unions. He has turned to law before considering public opinion. Yoon vows to enforce law and order to end political strikes, but unions are not scared. The government does not seem to have a thorough strategy to win over opponents. It may end up giving another medal of honor to labor unions.
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