Go to contents

[Editorial] A Time for Harmony

Posted May. 30, 2009 08:17,   


The state funeral for former President Roh Moo-hyun was held yesterday. Streams of mourners gathered to pay their last respects to Roh. As his shocking suicide evoked grief far and wide, many Koreans across the nation remember their former president. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in central Seoul for the ceremony. The death of Korea’s 16th president is indeed a tragedy and hopefully he will rest in peace in his hometown.

Roh’s funeral was the biggest among the 13 state funerals held since Korean independence in 1945. The government spent 4.5 billion won (3.6 million U.S. dollars) on Roh’s funeral, 13 times the figure of 337 million won (353,000 dollars) spent on that for former President Choi Kyu-hah in October 2006. The government agreed to almost all the wishes of Roh’s bereaved family. The central government and provincial governments have set up 99 places where mourners can burn incense for Roh. Usually, a state funeral is chaired by the incumbent prime minister, but Han Myeong-sook, who served as the post under Roh, co-chaired the funeral committee. At the request of Roh’s bereaved family, the government also allowed mourners to hold a ceremony at Seoul City Plaza. Former President Kim Dae-jung’s desire to deliver a funeral oration was rejected since he is not the only former president.

As his family and close aides turned out to receive bribes, Roh took his own life after his retirement. In his will, he said, “I don’t want anybody to hold a grudge.” Yet the jury is still out on an objective assessment of him. Nevertheless, some people have said without grounds that the incumbent government, prosecutors and certain media forced Roh to kill himself. Even at the funeral, main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Paek Won-u shouted that President Lee Myung-bak should make an apology. The funeral was held to encourage all Koreans to pay their respects to Roh and be in harmony with one another. Taking advantage of a state funeral to disrupt social stability, divide the nation into several factions, and attack others is unacceptable. Such activities will not allow Roh’s soul to rest in peace.

It is time to stay calm and return to normal life. Roh’s legacy will be assessed by future generations. Koreans should now join forces to deal with pending issues such as helping the weak, centralized power given to the president, and combating corruption that Roh also struggled to handle.