Go to contents

Statue of MacArthur At Center of Ideological Dispute

Posted September. 12, 2005 07:02,   


Yesterday, nine days before the 55-year anniversary of the historic Incheon landings (a significant turning point of the Korean War), both conservative and progressive organizations held rallies amid a recent move to remove the statue of MacArthur from Freedom Park, located in Jung-gu, Incheon.

Even though they shouted each other and had some physical contact, there was not a big physical clash between the two groups, contrary to what people had been worried about.

The confrontation is, however, expected to last for a while because a conservative group is scheduled to hold a “Great Meeting for a Resolution to Keep National Security and the Statue of MacArthur,” on September 15. Up to 20,000 members are expected to attend. Progressive groups also plan to organize rallies to call for the removal of the statue.

Approximately 4,000 people who are members of progressive organizations such as the National League for People (President Jeong Gwang-hun) and Hanchongneyon (the Federation of Korean University Student Councils) called for the removal of the statue and marched from Sungui Stadium (Nam-gu, Incheon) to Freedom Park (2.9 km distance) where the statue is located, yesterday afternoon.

At 4:00 p.m. they gathered again at Pigeon Square and held a “Grand Meeting for the Liquidation of America’s 60-year Forceful Occupation, and the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Korea.”

Park Seong-hwan, 34, who recently stirred up controversy by describing General MacArthur as a killer in his song, “MacArthur,” sang the song and others followed him. They also attempted to put up a letter of notification ordering the statue’s removal, but it was disallowed by police.

Jeong, the president of National League for People, said, “With the aim to build a new history on the relationship between South Korea and United States, we held the rally in Incheon that was the starting place of the U.S. forceful occupation of Korea which began after the nation’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule,” adding, “To correct the nation’s distorted history, the statue of MacArthur, the symbol of imperialism, must be removed and the United States Forces Korea must be withdrawn.”

In response to this, about 1,000 people belonging to conservative organizations such as the Hwanghaedo Society (President Yu Cheong-yeong), Korea Veterans Association, and Korea Freedom League gathered at 1:00 p.m. at the same day in Inseong Girl’s High School about 300m away from Freedom Park and held its “Great Meeting for a Resolution to Protect the Statue of MacArthur.”

Yu, president of the Hwanghaedo Society, said, “The statue of MacArthur was built by the donations of Incheon people who wanted to remember the Incheon landings that preempted North Korea’s greedy intention to communize the entire Korean Peninsula,” adding, “The R.O.K Marine Corps Veterans Association’s 16 local offices will protect the statue until the end of this year.”

When members of progressive organizations passed by Hongye Gate near Freedom Park, conservative members flung eggs and stones, and shouted, “Ppalgaengi (hardcore communists) must leave.” There were several physical attacks here and there.

However, further physical clashes didn’t take place because 4,000 troops from 38 police companies forcefully separated the two groups. They were dispersed at 6:00 p.m.

The statue of MacArthur was built in 1957 in memory of the UN Commander-in-chief, General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who turned the tide of battles in the Korean War by successfully commanding the historic Incheon landings, which took place 80 days after the Korean War broke out.

Kum-Chun Hwang kchwang@donga.com