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An irresponsible secretary

July 16,2019
On Saturday night, Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, posted a YouTube link to Jookchang-ga — the “Song of Bamboo Spear” that was popular during the democracy movement against the military regime in the 1980s — on Facebook. Out of the several versions of the video online, he chose one with the background of a man holding a bamboo spear high. Along with the video, he wrote that he had looked up the forgotten song after hearing it on the final episode of the TV drama “Nokdu Flower,” which was set during the Donhak Peasant Revolution during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Few believe that Cho genuinely wished to share the old song with only his Facebook friends. He may have aimed to stir and unite the progressive front by reminding the people of the daunting challenges — prosecutorial reforms — faced by the Moon Jae-in administration, as in the days of the peasant or student revolutions.

Secretary Cho, the longest-serving aide to the president, has kept mum over the current diplomatic and economic challenges Korea faces. His behavior cannot be justified if he really aimed to provoke anti-Japanese sentiment by suddenly bringing up the song and the TV series.

The government is heading towards a faceoff with Japan instead of calming the public and seeking a reasonable diplomatic solution. Some ruling party lawmakers have been capitalizing on negative public sentiment by even mentioning the need to recruit volunteer rebels in a battle against Japan.

Cho denied any special meaning, but he is either irresponsible or naïve by saying so. His followers have filled his Facebook page with slanderous and antagonistic comments toward Japan. Under the “Bamboo Spear” post, there were comments about throwing a bamboo spear at the heart of the enemy and even chants to push pro-Japan forces out of Korea.

Since taking his job as Moon’s first civil affairs secretary, Cho has repeatedly made comments and taken actions befitting an overly progressive professor. He must stop this inappropriate behavior as soon as possible.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 15, Page 30