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Those who fight over history

Sept 26,2017
The liberal and conservative parties are at war in defense of their past presidents. The ruling Democratic Party vowed to file charges against Rep. Chung Jin-suk of the Liberty Korea Party for his claim that former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death after a big fight with his wife who was under investigation for bribery.

The opposition in the liberal camp — the People’s Party and Justice Party — have joined the chorus of criticism against Chung. But the Liberty Korea Party has come to Chung’s defense and demanded the investigation into bribery of the former first lady and the president’s son be renewed.

We are dumbfounded to see the rivaling politicians wrangle vehemently over an issue from more than a decade ago, especially at a time of such war-like tension. Chung was indecent to bring about the tragic death of a former president and imply a family scandal.

But the ruling party has pushed the opposition too far by labeling former presidents and their achievements as “evils of that past” that must be hunted down and punished. The Democratic Party accused the administration of President Lee Myung-bak for blacklisting cultural figures, and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has sued the former president for abuse of power and obstructing public duties while Lee was mayor of Seoul.

The prosecution, National Intelligence Service and the rest of the administration are entirely engrossed with clampdown on “past evils.” The Ministry of Unification has formed a so-called “reform committee” to re-examine policies on North Korea under past conservative governments.

The Ministry of Education has launched a committee to revisit the nationalization of history textbooks under President Park Geun-hye. Are current affairs so relaxed that the government can afford to focus resources on past affairs? What about the rift that procedures are causing in the bureaucracy? The new committees are entirely filled with left-leaning figures.

If former presidents have done wrong, they must be investigated and punished. Most of the accusations that the ruling party is making have been investigated under past governments and been cleared. The clampdown on past ills might instead be interpreted as a political vendetta against past conservative governments. President Moon Jae-in can hardly expect cooperation from the opposition when the actions of his administration are rankling them.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 38