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[Editorial] Views on the Reevaluation of the Leftist Independence Movement

[Editorial] Views on the Reevaluation of the Leftist Independence Movement

Posted August. 26, 2004 22:00,   


By saying that those leftists who participated in the independence movement during the Japanese colonial rule should also be reevaluated, President Roh Moo-hyun is touching a historically sensitive past. It is true that leftists contributed to the fight against Japanese colonialism too, but have not been appreciated as much as rightists due to the history of confrontation between rightists and leftists. It is not wrong to say that joining the leftist group was one of many ways to participate in independence movements. Still, it is doubtful if such clarification of the past is appropriate to do today.

Most leftist independence fighters participated in establishing the North Korean regime after Korea gained its independence, or supported the regime. This means that they did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea. It is hard to evaluate such people by their activities only during the Japanese colonial rule, separated from their other activities. Their fights for independence can be written as facts in our history. Nonetheless, evaluation is difference from simple description. Evaluation inevitably involves value judgments.

The Republic of Korea was established in 1948 through the May 10 election. There are varied views on the “single line” policy selected by Lee Seung-man, Korea’s president at that time. However, it was a practical selection by the nation, and today’s ROK exists under the selection. We should not award medals to those who denied our regime and tried to overthrow it just because of their records of fighting for independence. Are we going to approve burying them in the National Cemetery if they want?

Of course, those who simply fought against Japanese, or who were centrism nationalists, but who were condemned as leftists because the nation was divided, should recover their honor. The problem is setting criteria to do this because it is not easy. There were tens of different leftist parties during the Japanese colonial rule. There are people who participated in the independence movement but went to North Korea, and there are people who stayed. Then, should those who crossed the DMZ be excluded now from the award list?

I believe it is right to postpone this issue to the post-unification era or at least until the reconciliatory mood between the south and the north is better improved. It seems that the whole nation is already divided in many directions by the Japanophile liquidation issue. Since the president, who should be a final mediator of disputes, is creating more disputes instead of trying to solve problems one-by-one and moving ahead, the nation cannot be anything else but chaotic. Reevaluating leftists who fought for independence cannot be too circumspective. It is not something a particular political power should hurry to do.