S.Korea Should End Wasteful Debate Over National Legitimacy

  • By Sonu Jong from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    August 16, 2018 13:45

    Sonu Jong

    The Republic of Korea was founded on Aug. 15, 1948. President Moon Jae-in, however, said two years ago that this fact was a "silly claim that denies the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea." After becoming president, Moon also said that March 1, 2019 should be the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic, commemorating as it does the birth of the Independence Movement.

    The March 1 Independence Movement and the Korean government-in-exile are undoubtedly significant, and the Constitution traces the republic's legitimacy to these historical events. Nonetheless, the Republic of Korea was not born until Aug. 15, 1948 from the efforts of those independence fighters and in the vortex of global politics. There should be no disagreements over this fact, and no need to denigrate the significance of Aug. 15, only because one is praising and appreciating the March 1 Independence Movement more. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Moon Jae-in administration is doing, just as it refuses to acknowledge Syngman Rhee as the country's first president.

    That stubbornness has erased the meaning of the country's 70th anniversary. North Korea is in a sense filling that void by putting on a massive celebration of its own 70th anniversary less than a month later, on Sept. 9.

    Kim Jong-un announced in his New Year's address that he plans to treat this year's Sept. 9 anniversary as a "major cause for celebration" and referred to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as a "good opportunity to show off our proud heritage." The North sent its athletes with a big entourage of cheerleaders to Pyeongchang, and there is no doubt that North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics eased cross-border tensions. Now it is hijacking South Korea's 70th anniversary as well.

    Diplomacy is a constant tug of war. If you lose, you end up getting dragged around by the victor. The most effective card South Korea had, in order to deal effectively with North Korea's massive celebrations, would have been to counter them with its own. It could even have invited Kim Jong-il to Seoul to attend Liberation Day celebrations. That opportunity is now forever lost.

    Moon seems stuck in his views when it comes to setting the national foundation day, possibly patting himself on the back for defeating conservatives at home. But from a diplomatic standpoint, he has shot himself in the foot. What would it ever mean to foreign governments to make such a distinction about the legitimacy of Syngman Rhee or Kim Gu of the provisional government? They were both leaders of the nation.

    The ruling party is wasting invaluable national resources in its attempts to divide the public. The shameful treatment the government suffered, when it turned out that North Korea did not want another summit at the end of this month since it is busy with something else, can be directly attributed to this foolish approach. Unless South Korea gains the upper hand in big diplomatic gestures, it will continue to be dragged around by North Korea.

    All this means that many of the leaders in the Moon administration and the ruling party have a skewed view of the country's history. Instead of admitting that it has achieved miraculous economic growth from the ashes of the Korean War, whatever trials and tribulations it went through, they have been busy debating whether it is capitalism or neo-colonialism, or quasi-feudalism that plagued this country. It is total nonsense.

    It was the patriots who built the Republic of Korea. This country was the first among the newly established nations to institute agrarian reforms. Innovative entrepreneurs and patriotic bureaucrats spearheaded its drive toward economic independence. Today it is a shining example of democracy. That success was only possible because it was based on the principles of democracy and free market economy, and its national security is firmly anchored in its steadfast alliance with the United States. Even a middle-schooler knows these facts.

    The leaders of the Moon administration are unable to send truckloads of cash to North Korea, although they are eager to do so, thanks to the rules wisely set up by the nation-building heroes. Those without a clear view of their nation's history had better not attempt to dabble in diplomacy. They would be nothing but squatters on the international stage.

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