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President Moon's Memorial Day address on patriotism

Posted June. 07, 2017 07:14,   

Updated June. 07, 2017 07:20


In a speech marking Memorial Day, President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday said that each and every one who devoted to making what Korea is today is the Republic of Korea. He stressed that the patriots cannot, and should not, be divided into the conservatives and the liberals. He also lauded coal miners and nurses who went to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s as well as the woman workers who toiled at workshops along the Cheonggyecheon Stream for having laid the stepping stone for Korea's economic development. It is desirable for the president to call sacrifices and devotions made at industrial sites, let alone at battlefields, "patriotic."

Marking the March 1 Independence Movement Day this year, President Moon called for completing the punishment of pro-Japanese collaborators during the colonial period before the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea. His view was different from the then Park Geun-hye administration's position that the Republic of Korea was founded in 1948. In his autobiography "Destiny," Moon said he was pleased to see the United States' and South Vietnam's defeat in the Vietnam War, calling it the "victory of truth." Now, he deserves credit for recognizing Korea's history of rapid industrialization and promising to offer due compensations and respect for Korean veterans who fought in the Vietnam War. He is also going in the right direction in planning to elevate the Ministry of Veterans and Patriots Affairs to a minister-level agency to better help veterans and patriots live with greater pride.

When he was an opposition politician, Moon staged a hunger strike in downtown Seoul for the bereaved families of the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol and never missed a mass rally against now-impeached President Park as a presidential candidate. Now that he is the president, he cannot achieve a true national unity by standing on one side. It is true that his Memorial Day speech has addressed such concerns to a certain extent. However, his remarks on ending the ideologically divisive politics that used the nation's war experience as a means of ruling should not become the logic for "eliminating the deep-rooted evil." If President Moon wants to put his words into practice, he should make efforts to treat soldiers killed by North Korean attacks and their bereaved families with "due respect" as much as he cares about the Sewol victims and their bereaved families.

Just as the president said, the pro-democracy movements of May 18, 1980 and June 10, 1987 defended our democracy. However, one cannot achieve democracy without a country in the first place. The first and foremost in patriotism is defending the country. In that respect, it is regrettable that the president failed to mention in the Memorial Day address the 1950-1953 Korean War and the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance. Moon should use the Seoul-Washington summit to be held in late June as an opportunity to further elevate the values of the alliance.