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[Opinion] The Korea Veterans Association

Posted March. 10, 2006 02:59,   


General Douglas MacArthur, the chief commander of the United Nations Forces during the Korean War, was famous not only as a military strategist but also as a good writer. His farewell speech at the U.S. Senate-House Conference on April 19, 1951 is considered his masterpiece. The speech was believed to be an exquisite combination of his commitment as a top military official and his feelings toward President Harry Truman who dismissed him. Starting with the words, “I address you…with but one purpose in mind: to serve my country,” he concluded his remark by quoting a phrase of a war song: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

The Korea Veterans Association (KVA), an organization of war veterans with more than 1.13 million regular members and 5.37 million associate members, rose to its feet when some progressive groups launched a campaign to remove the statue of General MacArthur at Peace Park, Incheon last year. For the KVA, the push to remove the statue was a challenge against the Republic of Korea and liberal democracy itself. Maybe they were revisiting the general’s saying: “In war, there is no other alternative but to win.” It was also the KVA who took the lead in campaigns against the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s attempt to abolish the National Security Law.

The KVA set “enhancing public awareness of national security” as one of its major agendas for this year as well. It aims to promote national security education and policy research in order to safeguard liberal democracy. However, the KVA’s plan was cancelled in the process of budget discussions with the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA), its supervisor. The entire budget for national security campaigns, which the KVA is uniquely responsible for, was slashed. Reportedly, the KVA is even seeking to incorporate the national security office—its key department—with others.

The KVA explains it was its own decision, not because of the MPVA’s pressures; nobody would buy its explanation as it is. In last year’s National Assembly inspection, lawmakers of the ruling party called on the MPVA to reconsider the KVA-related budget, saying, “It is inappropriate for the KVA, which is receiving government subsidies, to hold a large-scale anti-government rally in the name of national security.” As a result of the Roh administration’s “taming of the KVA,” now “national security” is about to disappear on the list of the KVA activities. Can the KVA continue to exist without national security in its activities? It is obvious that something is going wrong.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com