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[Editorial] The Current Regime’s Political Identity is the Heart of the Issue

[Editorial] The Current Regime’s Political Identity is the Heart of the Issue

Posted July. 27, 2004 22:03,   


A look at the political tit-for-tat between the ruling and opposition parties over political identity prompts us to question ourselves what time it is in the Republic of Korea. When saying even exclusively rushing towards the future won’t guarantee that this generation will reach the ranks of the advanced countries, they are jumping at any opportunity to pick on things of the past. It is not a lie when people often say these days that being a citizen of this country is a tough job.

The Presidential Office has begun to respond to the issue of its political identity raised by Grand National Party leader Park Geun-hye. However, in doing so, it evaded the core of the issue and made matters worse. Park sought President Roh’s position about concrete issues. She asked what President Roh’s posturing was when his own Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths judged leftist long-term prisoners as contributors to the democratization of the country, and when the commission’s investigator, who had been jailed on espionage charges, questioned an incumbent army general.

Accordingly, she also called it into question when the government chided the military over a North Korean vessel’s violation of the Northern Limit Line while it remained lip-tied about the North. She demanded the regime reveal its political identity. If the regime could not answer all these questions with confidence, then any person, not just Park, would and should ask the president such questions.

Here is the entirety of President Roh’s answer: “My ideology is what the Constitution represents. However, the Constitution is not Yushin’s of the 1970s, but a democratic Constitution rewritten in October of 1987.” That is hardly an appropriate response. What Park and a majority of the public want to know is the regime’s political identity. There has been much talk about its leftward leanings, raising anxiety. Since it has gotten to the point where entrepreneurs do not want to make new investments and some affluent individuals are sending their properties overseas, the regime should come clean about its identity and ease the concerns of the people.

This is not to squash the debate by picking on bygones, but it is to request the president to show his diagnosis and prescription for the present, not the past. The Presidential Office said, “Since he took office, the president has always emphasized liberal democracy and a transparent market economy.” However, what’s at issue is that much of the public does not feel sincerity in his remarks. The deputy prime minister, his own top economic policymaker, summed it up when he muttered, “I am questioning whether we are up to the market economy.”

President Roh should have offered a clear answer. He should not have taken issue with the past by referring to Yushin. While it was clear that he attempted to forestall attempts to judge him with the ideology of authoritarian development under Yushin, the way he responded blurred the point and worsened the confrontation. The opposition party has begun to reply cynically and pointed to the fact that the president was the candidate of the party which was allied with a party of Yushin stalwarts. Then, as a country, we cannot take even one step forward. Concerns are rising that the regime is engaged solely in picking on the things of the past.

If people feel anxious about the political identity of the regime, the responsibility for addressing it will lie primarily with the president. He must prove in practice that he is loyal to liberal democracy and the market economy, instead of feuding with the opposition party over Yushin, a thing of the past.