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[Opinion] Havel`s Farewell

Posted February. 04, 2003 22:48,   


˝To all of you whom I have disappointed in any way, who have not agreed with my actions, or who have simply found me hateful, I sincerely apologize and trust that you will forgive me,” said in a heartfelt speech Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel as he ended his final presidential term last Sunday. He served as the leader of the country for 13 years but the resignation ceremony was only a 5-minute speech. Yet, the whole world watched him as he left and people all across the country felt sad about letting him go. He asked for forgiveness for his mistakes like the breakup of the Czechslovakia Republic despite such achievements as ascension into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). The scene was as moving as when the former dissident writer led the revolutionary movement that toppled communism peacefully here 13 years ago.

▷Havel is similar to former South African President Nelson Mandela in many ways. Both of them devoted their young years to fight for democracy and human rights and became presidents from respected dissident leaders. That is why Havel is called `Nelson Mandela in Eastern Europe.` The two have different colors of skin but are the same in that they deserve respect from the world. They especially look alike in the way they left the office of president.

▷Mandela also ended his presidential term as people felt sad about his leaving. Having spent 27 years in prison after fighting against the discriminatory white government, he only stayed in power for five years and just left. As the greatest political leader in the 20th century, he indeed opened the way for his successor Tabo Eumbeki while he easily could have stayed longer, saying ”We are here after a long and hard way.” The true hero overcame the wall of racial discrimination with forgiveness and reconciliation, and is now working hard to help resolve disputes and fight against AIDS, and the world is calling him `a leader even shining brighter after retirement.`

▷President Kim is often allured to Mandela. He might be seen more similar to Mandela given his winning the Nobel Peace Prize, which Havel does not have. Kim himself invited Mandela two years ago and praised him as `the great conscience of the 20th century,` displaying the fellowship he was feeling towards Mandela. Will Kim`s resignation then be on the equal par with that of Mandela. Will Korean people also feel sorry about letting him go as South Africans and Czechs did? It remains a big question for now. Was it too much to refer to Kim as `Mandela in Asia`?

Bang Hyung-nam, Editorial Writer, hnbhang@donga.com