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[Opinion] Collaborators

Posted March. 28, 2007 07:34,   


On December 5, 1993, Lee Kyung-shik, the then Minister of Financial and Economy, entered the room of the Special Committee on Budgets and Accounts. At that moment, a lawmaker from the opposition party attacked Lee, shouting, “You betrayer! You are nothing different from the Japanese collaborators.” Clearly offended by the word “Japanese collaborators,” Lee said, “I will fight him when I step down from my position,” in a casual meeting.

The reason the lawmaker accused Lee of being a Japanese collaborator was because of the Uruguay Round negotiations. At that time, the Korean government agreed on postponing the opening of rice market and renegotiating terms 10 years later. Now, people consider that decision to be one of the best choices the government made.

Recently, Rep. Lee Young-ho, a Jeonnam province native, publicly said that he is a supporter of the Korea-U.S. FTA. Because of his remark, he is now stigmatized as one of the “Japanese collaborators of the 21st century” This word gives a sense of indescribable humiliation to every Korean. Lawmakers or civil servicemen feel more humiliated when they become the target of this humiliation. We are living in such an open and well-connected world. There was also a book titled, “The World is Flat” recently. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that the FTA is another way to survive in the future.

There can be people who are opposed to the Korea-U.S FTA. However, it is too much to say that the supporters are betrayers.

The problem gets more serious when the reason of opposing the FTA is because of anti-American sentiment. Julia E. Sweig, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has said that there are as many as eight different feelings Koreans have about America, including all ranges of positive and negative. It is difficult to define which one of those makes a person a betrayer of Korea. Maybe some of the extreme leftists will say that having a good feeling toward the U.S. is also betraying Korea. It will be safe to say that these people think taking advantage of the U.S. is the only patriotic act.

Many of the leading figures in the government have announced that they are against the FTA. Kim Geun-tae and Chun Jung-bae, who are presidential hopefuls, have publicly announced that they are against the FTA and are fasting. This kind of attitude can have ambivalent meanings. One may think that the two politicians consider the FTA negotiations as a betrayal, or maybe they are just trying to get more votes in the presidential election. In my opinion, they are mere opportunists. It would be correct to say that nothing separates them from “Japanese collaborators.”

Gwon Sun-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com