Monday, September 9, 2013

The Sejongno Insult

 This is just wrong:

PARK Chung-hee parading on Sejongno in 2013

PARK Chung-hee parading on Sejongno in 2013, at the feet of the Government building and facing - among others - the highly controversial National Museum of Korean Contemporary History? That's simply shocking.

Of course, the artistic alibi doesn't stand one second: the former dictator didn't land here by chance anymore than Shinzo Abe landed on jet fighter #731 by chance last spring*.

This is not the kind of messages Korea needs to send these days, particularly as the nation asks Shinzo Abe's Japan to stop revising history.

Yesterday, PARK Chung-hee's daughter paid a silent tribute to Uncle Ho at the Ho Chi Minh Memorial, but missed a golden opportunity to issue formal apologies for Korea's wrongdoings during the Vietnam War. Yes, "in 1992, when Korea and Vietnam established diplomatic ties, Vietnam agreed not to ask Korea for an apology for fighting on the American side in the war"**, but we're talking about apologies for crimes that didn't belong in a war.

Again, PARK Geun-hye has the legitimacy to become a game changer in East Asian politics, and she could even deserve a Nobel Peace Prize if she had the courage to make the first move. We can't go like this any longer, all nations have to face correctly their own dark moments, regardless of the relative importance to what their neighbors did. Korea must apologize for the crimes committed by its troops during the Vietnam War, and as the President of the Republic of Korea, PARK Geun-hye must make sure that Korean history is correctly taught at home, recognize that her father was a dictator, state firmly that it is wrong to present only the positive sides of his reign, and restore the Truth and Reconciliation process.

Only then can she expose Shinzo Abe and his fellow revisionists without any reserve.

Until now, she's only half-distanced herself from her father's heritage. Typically, she said that the future Park Chung-hee museum shouldn't be funded with public money, but that's not enough: the State should make this museum illegal unless it exposes both sides of the coin, and involves victims of the regime in the process.

There's no better moment than right now, following the embarrassing exposure of other enemies of democracy, at the other side of the policial spectrum (see "LEE Seok-ki's Arirang Spring"): this is not a witch-hunt, we want Korea's democracy to be stronger, and see, we're cleaning our own mess.

To be consistent, PARK Geun-hye must also give her full support to investigations on the "NIS-gate", the scandal that cast a shadow on her own election. And she should even be ready to call for new elections, if that's what the outcome demands.

That's what a great leader would do to reunite at least this side of the DMZ, and at long last, propel Korea into the new millenium.

Seoul Village 2013
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* See "Can't top that? Shinzo Abe posing as Shiro Ishii, the Josef Mengele of Imperial Japan". I'm not comparing PARK's dictatorship to Imperial Japan, but precisely: Korea must realize that such tasteless provocations are undermining the nation as a whole.
** "Park vows $70B in Vietnam trade" (Korea JoongAng Daily - 20130910)

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