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[Editorial] Anti-Gov`t Statements by Scholars

Posted June. 11, 2009 23:35,   


Seoul National University President Lee Jang-moo told a news conference Tuesday that a pro-democracy declaration released by 124 of his school’s professors is not the opinion of the entire university. “Since a university is a place serving freedom of academia and philosophy, it is natural that people have different opinions about the political situation. Many professors hold different views from those who signed the declaration,” Lee said. He, however, failed to point out that the 124 professors represent just 6.9 percent of the university’s total of 1,786, including full-time lecturers and above. He might have complained about a political declaration that seems to represent all academia, where diversity must be more respected than any other group.

Three thousand professors from some 60 domestic universities have signed the declaration. This relay declaration is no different from what Seoul National professors issued. In sum, the declaration says the Lee Myung-bak administration must recognize and apologize for the problems in the criminal investigation into former President Roh Moo-hyun given his recent suicide. It also blames the administration for putting democracy in jeopardy by suppressing freedom of assembly and association. The professors also warn that Seoul has put its North Korea policy used over the past decade in danger. This is hardly different from what the main opposition Democratic Party and left-wing civic groups say.

There is a logical gap between Roh’s death and demanding accountability by the incumbent administration. Claiming that democracy is in danger is an exaggeration of marginal things or a shortsighted opinion that fails to recognize social phenomena in a comprehensive manner. It is also very biased to blame only the government for worsening inter-Korean relations, which was triggered by North Korea’s nuclear development and provocations. Intellectuals must present a balanced view of things and criticize using logic, reason and facts.

A group of 128 professors called “Professors Who Think of Korea’s Future” issued Tuesday a declaration countering the one criticizing the incumbent administration. Their statement said, “When intellectuals are impartial and humble, they can be true intellectuals. Just announcing what they agree on among themselves politically in the form of a declaration cannot be regarded as fair.” It also said, “Announcing issues that are merely the topic of debate and discussion is neither the right way of expressing views nor a courtesy to the people.” The 128 professors proposed that those who signed the initial declaration hold an open discussion. Such a discussion needs to be vitalized.

Whether a conflict and division in a society spins out of control and triggers a national crisis or achieves harmony and integration after moderate filtering depends on that society’s level of maturity. Intellectuals who guide social discussion have an important role to play. The series of declarations after former President Roh’s death and the emotional voice of the speaker at Seoul Plaza yesterday basically have the same tone.