September 12, 2005 21:54
A leading member of the ruling Uri Party, Chang Young-dal, told a party meeting on Monday to look out for “ultra-rightist” who oppose the government’s inter-Korean reconciliation efforts lest they be galvanized into action by controversy over a statue of general Douglas MacArthur in Incheon. Chang's remark was one of very few from the party after a Sunday rally calling for the statue to be torn down turned violent.
Asked about the party's position on the removal of the statue two months ago, the Uri Party secretary-general said, "There exists difference in perception between those who played a leading role in establishing the Republic of Korea and future-oriented people who aspire to achieve unification by overcoming national division."
The dispute about the MacArthur statue is in its fifth month. Groups who want it torn down said in early May, "MacArthur was an invader who illegally occupied our country in the Incheon Landing." In a June rally, they asserted, “Pro-American flunkies see the U.S., which provided the direct cause of the Korean War, as a benefactor." In late July, Prof. Kang Jeong-koo of Dongguk University said in an online column the Korean War was North Korea’s attempt at unification and would have ended in a month but for U.S. interference.
In short, the anti-MacArthur camp believe unification under North Korean rule would have been a good thing, and it failed tragically because the U.S. interfered. That flies in the face of the historical view of the majority, who are grateful that the Republic of Korea was saved from unification under a Stalinist system, as North Korea intended when it started the war.
In other words, we have had more than four months of a confrontation between one side that denies the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea and another that believes in it. The ruling party has not yet made it clear on which side it stands, but it has classified those who deny the legitimacy of South Korea as "future-oriented people” seeking unification, and those who want to preserve the republic as “ultra-rightists” who are against reconciliation. It is in effect a signal to those who want the statue gone: "Though we can’t say so openly, we are on your side."
The ruling party must make it very clear if the Korean War was a unification war that failed because of U.S. interference or a national tragedy that should not have happened; whether the Incheon Landing was an illegal occupation by the U.S. or a feat that saved the Republic of Korea; and whether the Korean War broke out because of a surprise attack by North Korea or because of cause directly provided by the U.S. The party in charge of our national government cannot wiggle out of taking a position on the historic incident that determined the fate of the Republic of Korea.
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