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[Opinion] Korean McCarthyism

Posted October. 31, 2006 03:00,   


“Are you saying we should start the war?” President Roh responds like this whenever someone criticizes his engagement policy towards North Korea. When there was a controversy over his wife’s family history of disease during the presidential election campaign, he said in a similar way: “Are you saying I should give up my wife?” After the recent espionage scandal implicated some politicians and civic organizations, president used the familiar counterattack. “Are you saying this is McCarthyism?”

The encyclopedia of one Internet portal website, naver.com, describes McCarthyism as an “anti-communist campaign in the United States from 1950 to 1954.” It started from U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s bombshell announcement that there are 205 pro-communists in the State Department. Since then, many had to fear being blacklisted or losing their jobs, creating the term, ‘McCarthyism.’ Some claim that the vociferous anti-communist campaign significantly damaged the country’s reputation and academic field. If the campaign did deal a blow to the country, some in the political circle is safe to respond, “Are you saying we are Reds?”

However, the encyclopedia didn’t mention that most of those accused by McCarthy were in fact spies. This was disclosed by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr of Emory University, after a wide-ranging survey of the Venona project and Soviet espionage in the United States during the thirties and forties. The Rosenbergs were spies who handed over the atomic bomb technology to the Soviet Union, and so was Alger Hiss, then Secretary of State Dean Atchison’s favorite. Haynes and Klehr’s ‘Denial’ (2003), Arthur Herman’s ‘Joseph McCarthy’ (2000), and Ted Morgan’s ‘Reds’ (2004) are also histories of this era.

McCarthyism was right as it condemned real communists. McCarthy was an alcoholic, used anti-communism to his political advantage, failed to discern communism and liberalism. But he was not a liar just like those who covered their identity. Some call the espionage investigation the ‘2006 Korean version of McCarthyism.’ Are they saying they know the truth that those accused were real spies?

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com