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[Editorial] Will the Ruling Party and Government Risk All for Things of the Past?

[Editorial] Will the Ruling Party and Government Risk All for Things of the Past?

Posted August. 18, 2004 22:01,   


Rep. Shin Gi-nam, the chairman of the ruling Uri Party who was beleaguered by the controversy on his morality following the revelations of his cover-up of his father’s history of pro-Japanese collaboration during colonial rule, has expressed his willingness to resign. By using it as momentum, the government and the ruling party will reportedly step up efforts to bring what they consider are historical wrongs to light much faster and much more broadly. The mood is maturing among them that with the barrier removed, and there is nothing stopping them.

However, we cannot agree to their perceptions. The reason why Chairman Shin will step down is not because his father had a history of pro-Japan collaboration, but because he lied. Their seeing his resignation as the removal of a barrier to their attempts to break with the past itself missed the point of what is at stake.

The government and the ruling party have been putting all their energy into their “fight with the past.” At the president’s urging, the National Intelligence Service and other government organizations have started internal probes into their past abuses of power. The prime minister has begun to take overall responsibility. Yesterday, a measure to receive input from civilian groups was reportedly discussed. The Uri Party has launched a fact-finding taskforce on history. It seems that the party and the government have welt together and bet everything on attempts to reveal the untold truths of history.

What will they really intend to do if they attempt to step up their fact-finding campaign by exploiting Chairman Shin’s resignation? If the painful history of colonial rule, national division, war, and dictatorship is dug up and stirred, the entire country may slide into confrontation and conflict. It may rekindle an ideological war by turning back the history of the Republic of Korea back to a half-century ago.

The ruling party and the government contend that clarifying history and enlivening the economy can co-exist side-by-side. However, it is self-evident that betting all on one agenda will put the other on the backburner. This is not the way to go. At the risk of repeating it, attempts to bring historical truths to light should be implemented in the sphere of historical research. It won’t be the right posture if the entire government and the ruling party are concentrating on the issue. The government and the ruling party should consider whether their do-or-die bet on the past is the right choice or not and whether it is what the public really wants them to do now.