June 15, 2021 13:09
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok kicked off his tenure at the helm Monday by visiting the National Cemetery in Daejeon to pay his respects to the country's war dead. The widow of a sailor who was killed in North Korea's 2010 torpedo attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan told him, "Please make sure the bereaved families don't lose their pride." Lee promised to do his best. More than 10 years have passed since the attack, but the bereaved families and survivors are still having to call on the government to honor them properly.
Lee told the ruling Minjoo Party to treat the Cheonan sinking with the same level of importance as its calls for punishment to those who try to distort the 1980 Gwangju massacre. Recently, a spokesman for the MP insulted the survivors by claiming the corvette's captain left all his crew to die at sea and made no reference to the North Korean torpedo. The captain, who survives, demanded that the spokesman be reprimanded, but the party did nothing. A presidential committee even ordered a new investigation into the sinking at the instigation of some conspiracy theorists who claimed the vessel was shipwrecked and the torpedo story was just a cover-up. That of course is North Korea's story.
Meanwhile, the same government that is showering taxpayers' money indiscriminately on all and sundry is unwilling to pay to help war veterans get easier access to subsidized medical treatment. Former soldiers can only visit six designated veterans' hospitals in the country if they want to get subsidized treatments, but most of them are over 80 years old and cannot travel easily, so they have to pay full price at their local clinic from their meager W300,000 in benefits. Just W10 billion a year, a fraction of the money that has been wasted on pork-barrel projects, would ensure that the veterans can travel (US$1=W1,118). But the president and the ruling party is unwilling to spend even that much. Yet at the same time the president and ruling party want to let former democracy activists qualify for specials allowances for meritorious citizens. There are only 260,000 Korean War veterans alive now and 20,000 are dying ever year. Do they really have to end their days without even a little consideration from their government?
All countries reward veterans and the families of the fallen. But this populist government thinks that veterans' affairs are somehow a rightwing concern and must be spat on. The families of the Cheonan victims are weeping, and Korean War veterans do not have enough money to buy medicine. This is a travesty.
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