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Once more raising the torch of democracy

Posted April. 02, 2001 11:40,   


The Dong-a Ilbo observed its 81st anniversary Sunday. The path it has trod all this while overlapped the thorny road Korea has traveled throughout the modern era. Dong-a Ilbo was born a year after the ``Samil`` (March 1) independence uprising of 1919 against Japanese colonial rule, putting forward the goals of nationalism, democracy and cultural enlightenment. Ever since it has provided a spiritual pillar for people deprived of their independence under the Japanese occupation. Then in the post-liberation years it sought to uphold liberal democracy during the chaotic post-World War II rivalry between rightist and leftist forces, thus paving the way for the establishment of an independent Korean government. When the new government was established, our newspaper held up the torch of democratization against dictatorship, campaigning for industrialization, reunification and international peace.

Dong-a Ilbo had to endure a plethora of constraints before it came to claim a position as a leading national newspaper. Its publisher was put under arrest for having offended the Japanese authorities; its publication was indefinitely suspended four times before it was shut down altogether; following independence, the then authoritarian governments used to intimidate or detain everyone from its publishers on down to junior reporters; once business clients were dissuaded from running advertisements in the newspaper; its affiliate radio station was also ordered closed. However, enthusiastic encouragement by the people always helped Donga survive the oppression.

Public support in resisting Japanese:

We can hardly rest assured that Dong-a Ilbo fulfilled its role satisfactorily through those dark and difficult years of oppression. In all honesty, we must reflect upon its own painful irregularity and deflection in the midst of alternating pretensions to honor and shame. This sober self-reflection and soul-searching calls for our renewed commitment to do our best to stand firmly for free democracy and the professional integrity of the press as a reborn media outlet on its first anniversary in the new millennium.

Then, what should be the starting point for Dong-a Ilbo pledging to begin a new life? It dates back to the original aims that the company presented before the people on the day of its inauguration -- nationalism, democracy and cultural enlightenment. Lurking in the current trends of our time are a number of elements militating against nationalism, democracy and cultural enlightenment. The battle between the forces of right and left, seen here in the three years that followed the end of World War II, seems to have been renewed. At this juncture, it is incumbent upon this newspaper to raise the torch of its original goals again, showing the right way for the nation to follow.

We are convinced that all of our values and priorities need to be founded on the primary objective we enunciated 81 years ago. Humanity has experienced countless vices and persecutions under a variety of phony democracies -- neo-democracy, people`s democracy, guided democracy, nationalistic democracy and development democracy. Those experiments taught us a lesson that no form of democracy other than liberal democracy is genuine and that liberal democracy is the only true form of democracy. Peaceful unification of the Korean people will be relevant only if it is based on free democracy and predicated on complete respect for human rights. Cultural enlightenment will be worthy of its name only when it implies liberal democracy thriving on diversity.

Opposition to violence and populism:

Pundits around the world see the new century as renaissance for free democracy. A revival of free democracy would allow the individuality and creativity of humankind to flourish, leading to a knowledge-based society. Belief in the capacity for vast development both in terms of the economy and the public welfare and a durable peace is central to our contemporary spirit.

Where does Korean society stand today? Prevalent here and now are an assortment of skewed ideologies and slogans that fall under the categories of anti-parliamentary socialism, conformist egalitarianism and populism and sentimental crusades for peace and unification behind the facade of nationalism. A destructive movement toward a dogmatic and all-or-nothing school is all the rage. This movement champions that idea that only my side is righteous, while the other side is immoral and unjust, denigrating and tearing down what has been accomplished by blood and sweat in adverse conditions and has served to help the people and enrich their history through thick and thin.

Indomitable posture:

Social discipline and law and order are falling by the wayside. This climate also affects the management of state affairs, prompting the government to undermine the rule of law and market principles, throwing the people into uncertainty and discomfiture. The silent majority are losing confidence in the nation`s future, in a better tomorrow for the coming generations. The current national crisis stems from this mess.

Dong-a Ilbo seeks to take its first steps toward resolving the crisis by reestablishing liberal democracy. Rejecting either the ultra-rightist logic or the ultra-leftist ideology, it seeks to serve the cause of national renaissance and peaceful unification in the 21st century by promoting the rule of law and market economics based on free democracy. It is determined to steadfastly resist any outside pressure, slander or other attempts at courtship and taming. We renew our resolve to fight for the defense and growth of liberal democracy that inspired the birth of the newspaper by presenting news and opinions without fear or favor true in the spirit of the journalistic profession.