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Honored in song

May 20,2017
This year’s state-administered memorial service for the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, held at the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju, was meaningful in many ways. President Moon Jae-in attended the annual ceremony, which had been shunned by his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, for the past four years. The “March for the Beloved,” an anthem for the popular uprising, was sung officially by everyone in attendance for the first time in nine years.

The May 18 movement was “the most sad and painful event in modern South Korean history,” said Moon in his address. Shooting civilians protesting for justice and democracy cannot be forgiven and forgotten. The reason for shunning the song has not been clearly explained as new testimonies suggested that the military had fired at civilians from helicopters. The truth still needs to be uncovered.

But we must stop wasting energy on unimportant details. The conservatives and liberals have been wrangling over the anthem for years. Upon Moon’s executive order, the anthem from this year has been sung in chorus by attendees. It is natural to sing the song since it pays respect to the victims. Anyone against it simply does not have to attend the memorial service. Refusing to sing along with the anthem while attending the event is a total contradiction.

The May 18 massacre is a moment in history that never must be repeated. Ideology has nothing to do with remembering the painful incident. “When Gwangju embraces the people and touches their pain and conflict, its hands will offer a lasting hope,” said Moon, pleading with the people of Gwangju to stand at the forefront for national unity.

“March for the Beloved” now must be a song for national unity. It will become a priceless legacy of the victims who died while crying out for democracy. National unity will be our way of paying respect to those who sacrificed themselves to bring justice and democracy to this nation.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 34