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[Op-Ed] 3 Events on June 29

Posted June. 29, 2009 09:29,   


Today marks the anniversary of three historic events in the country: the 1987 declaration that set the road for democracy; the 2002 naval clash against North Korea in which six South Korean naval officers were killed in action; and the eve of the 2002 FIFA World Cup’s closing ceremony. The three events were all monumental events in South Korea’s modern history, showing the power of unity and their system of liberal democracy in the South.

The June 29 declaration was made by Roh Tae-woo, who was then head of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, the successor to the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan. The declaration was a “surrender” to the people’s pro-democracy movement. It can be said that the power of the June 29 spirit that started 23 years ago has maintained the Constitution and the law on assembly and demonstration. At a time when peaceful regime change and demonstrations are fully guaranteed, some still talk about a crisis in democracy. This is anachronistic nonsense.

The second naval clash in waters off Yeonpyeong Island on the west coast has been called a South Korean defeat. Six naval soldiers were killed in action unlike in the first clash in 1999, when dozens of North Korean soldiers were killed. Newly uncovered facts, however, show that the second clash was also the South’s victory because the South Korean Navy killed 13 North Korean troops and injured 25. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said at that time that it was a “valuable victory” won under an unfavorable condition where the South Korean administration of Kim Dae-jung, with its blind belief in its “sunshine policy” of engagement toward North Korea, bound the South Korean Navy hand and foot. Seoul changed the name of the clash from the downgraded “West (Yellow) Sea Battle” to the “Second Yeonpyeong Naval Battle.” It is hoped that the honor of those involved in the naval battle and those killed in action that day will be fully restored.

South Korea’s advance to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup was also cause for national pride. It was a feat achieved in the 100th year after the country’s first soccer team was formed at two high schools in Seoul. South Korea beat Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the semifinal, rewriting Korean soccer history in the process. We hope that the roar and inspiration of millions of “Red Devil” fans who filled the main boulevard in downtown Seoul will be transferred to the energy for economic revival and the rule of law.

Editorial Writer Yuk Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)