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“I Wrote a Letter in Blood Not to Betray My Student Activist Colleagues”

“I Wrote a Letter in Blood Not to Betray My Student Activist Colleagues”

Posted May. 19, 2005 23:35,   


On May 19, lawmaker Lee Kwang-jae of the Uri Party wrote a message on his homepage, explaining that he cut off his finger and wrote a letter of resolve in blood “not to betray his colleagues in student movements in the 1980s.” However, some point out there are more than a few ironies and questions here. Mr. Lee never even explained why he lied that he had lost his finger “while handling a machine at a factory” in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo in 2003.

Admitting the Lie?–

Under the heading, “I disclose the scars in my life,” Mr. Lee wrote on his blog, “One day, when there was a series of news reports on martyrs setting themselves afire and being tortured, I abandoned one of my fingers and wrote a letter in blood.” However, when asked why he had claimed in the interview with the newspaper in April 2003, “I had my finger severed in an accident while I was secretly working at a local foundry in Bupyeong, Incheon,” he remained silent.

He reportedly said at an aide-level conference on May 19, “When I was elected director of the presidential office in 2003, the press tracked my life, and there were some parts I could not elaborate on, especially on the circumstances regarding the loss of my finger.” One of Lee’s officials said, “Lee just seemed to avoid the press coverage on him.” On this, officials of the Uri Party responded by saying, “There needs to be an explanation about why Lee put on a show by taking reporters to Bupyeong, where the alleged accident took place.’”

What Do “Scars of the Age” Mean?-

In his writing, Lee elaborated on the circumstances at the time, when tortures and setting oneself on fire were common, arguing, “Serving military duty was not something I feared as a student activist back then.” However, he said, “Once I began military service, I would have been taken to the intelligence office, and if I gave up my colleagues’ names under pain of torture, they would have been arrested. I thought I would not be able to live a normal life with such memories of betrayal.” This means he was afraid of betraying his student activist friends once began his military duty. However, how he acted in 1986 somewhat contradicts his remarks.

Soon after he cut off his finger in the spring of 1986, on May 28, he began his military service in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, but he was told to return home, being waived on account of his severed finger. The question arises: why did he decide to enlist in the military when he was afraid “to be taken to the intelligence office upon entry into the service”? Lee told Dong-A Ilbo in 2003, “Even if I had all my fingers, I was about to be jailed if I were arrested since I took a leading role in violating the national security law. There was no reason to cut off my finger merely to avoid enlisting in the service.” But if it was true that he was on the “wanted list,” it is not clear why he dared to enter the military service for fear of being arrested.

Why the Letter in Blood?-

Mr. Lee explained, “I wrote on a national flag using blood, ‘I will never betray.’ I gave the flag to one of my friends in Ewha Womans University.” It is not quite convincing that he had to cut off his right index finger, which normally exempts one from mandatory military service. Writing a letter in blood does not require one to sever the entire finger. In addition, to stop the bleeding, there should be special equipment and medical preparation for a surgery, according to medical experts. They say once a finger is severed, it bleeds excessively, so writing in blood is physically difficult.

Yong-Gwan Jung yongari@donga.com