[Reporter’s notebook] Can we entrust Korea’s unification policy to a man thirsty for confrontation?

Posted on : 2023-07-21 16:57 KST Modified on : 2023-07-21 17:12 KST
For Kim, North Korea and South Korean “liberals” are not partners for dialogue and coexistence, but incarnations of “totalitarianism” that must be eradicated
Kim Young-ho, Yoon’s pick to become the next minister of unification, takes questions from the press outside his office in Seoul on June 30. (Yonhap)
Kim Young-ho, Yoon’s pick to become the next minister of unification, takes questions from the press outside his office in Seoul on June 30. (Yonhap)

The inaugural convention of the Korea Freedom Congress was held at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul on the afternoon of Jan. 23, 2017, during the height of the candlelight protests calling for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Self-described “free intellectuals” said they felt “the tyranny of the majority, and the coming of a constitutional crisis” in the ongoing popular protests as well as “a sense of crisis that the Korean liberal democratic system is headed toward collapse.”

They declared that they would “defend the liberal democratic system of Korea against the totalitarian subversive forces following the North Korean regime’s ‘unified front tactics.’”

Former Prime Minister Ro Jai-bong read the group’s founding mission statement which reads, “We oppose the fictitious concept of conservative versus liberal and declare our war against totalitarianism.”

Kim Young-ho, President Yoon Suk-yeol’s pick for unification minister and a professor of political science and diplomacy at Sungshin Women’s University, announced the dissolution of the founding mission statement.

Kim was a founding member and executive secretary of the Korea Freedom Congress.

According to Kim, the congress made its mission the “a revolution in unification” based on the “founding and democratic revolution” of Syngman Rhee and the industrial revolution of Park Chung-hee.

However, for Kim, North Korea is “a totalitarian state that can never be reconciled with the ideology of liberal democracy” and “an opponent with which we cannot engage in any policies of appeasement.” It follows that, to Kim, inter-Korean relations are “hostile” and reunification is “not an issue of unifying the nation, but an issue of systems.”

As demonstrated in his book co-authored with Ro, “Liberal Democracy in South Korea and Its Enemies,” which outlined the Korea Freedom Congress’ ideology, strategy, and tactics for its so-called unification revolution, to Kim, North Korea is not a counterpart for dialogue or negotiation.

The current candidate for South Korea’s unification minister has publicly vowed to “fight against ‘totalitarian’ factions in both the South and the North” to “break down the barrier of the dark land” of North Korea and establish a unified liberal democratic system.

This is an extreme show of inter-Korean confrontationalism, demonstrating more intense Cold War-era antagonism than Park Chung-hee’s call for “confrontation, but with dialogue” with the North and more reminiscent of Syngman Rhee’s call for South Korea’s unification of Korea by marching northwards.

“The ‘conservative versus liberal’ divide is a fictitious schema that has no basis in reality,” Kim wrote in his founding manifesto for the Korea Freedom Congress, asserting that South Korea’s ideological and political landscape is one of “liberal democratic forces versus totalitarian forces.”

Who are these supposed “totalitarian forces”? For the self-described “free thinkers” of the Korea Freedom Congress like Kim, South Korea’s “liberals” are “anachronistic rebels that deny the achievements of South Korea’s modernization and advocate North Korean totalitarianism.”

In that vein, those who organized the 2016-2017 candlelight protests are “anti-Republic of Korea forces” in his eyes.

In short, for Kim, North Korea, as well as South Korean “liberals,” are not partners for dialogue and coexistence, but incarnations of “totalitarianism” that must be eradicated.

This is a dangerous perception that runs counter to South Korea’s constitutional system, which allows and encourages the coexistence of differences. This is why Yoon should withdraw his nomination of Kim or Kim should remove himself from consideration.

However, Yoon is using the Korea Freedom Congress as his talent pool.

In addition to Kim, the congress’ founding convention was attended by Kim Gwang-dong and Cha Gi-hwan, who are using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an ideological battleground, and Lee Yeong-hun, the head of the Syngman Rhee School, who wrote “Anti-Japan Tribalism,” which denies the coercive nature of Japan’s “comfort women” of sexual slavery into which Korean women were drafted.

What can we expect from that?

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles