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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 8)

All News 09:00 June 08, 2019

Ideological conflicts
: Rival parties should not divide nation for partisanship

No other country has suffered ideological conflicts more seriously than South Korea. Regrettably, our nation is still divided sharply over ideological tendencies. This is all the more so because the Cold War legacy continues to grip both sides of the divided Korean Peninsula.

National division following Korea's 1945 liberation from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule is usually held accountable for the self-destructive confrontation between the capitalist South and the communist North. The confrontation was the direct result of the occupation of the peninsula by the U.S. and the Soviet Union upon Japan's surrender at the end of World War II.

The South-North rivalry hit the pinnacle when the Korean War broke out in 1950. The fratricidal war didn't simply deepen the enmity between the two Koreas; it also sowed the seeds of an internal ideological conflict in the South. Worse, this conflict shows no signs of abating anytime soon.

To the dismay of the public, President Moon Jae-in's Memorial Day speech has again divided the nation along ideological lines. Marking the 64th special day for fallen soldiers during the Korean War, the liberal President sent a message of national harmony and reconciliation based on patriotism.

Moon said, "When it comes to patriotism, there is no difference between conservatives and liberals." He added the days are gone when society can be characterized as a dichotomy between conservatives and liberals. He even said everyone, by nature, can at times be conservative and at other times liberal.

President Moon apparently intended to seek an end to the chronic ideological rift between the right and the left. However, his message has become counterproductive because he referenced Kim Won-bong, an independence fighter who moved to North Korea after liberation from Japan.

Moon's mention of Kim has sparked controversy because Kim participated in the founding of North Korea and received a medal of honor from the North's founder Kim Il-sung during the war. He was purged in 1958. But he still remains a controversial figure because he worked together with the Kim regime.

Moon apparently sought to cite Kim Won-bong as a figure who contributed to the nation's independence and made efforts to promote national integration together with another freedom fighter, Kim Koo. Yet the President should have been more cautious not to provide ammunition for conservative opposition parties, especially the Liberty Korea Party, to lash out at him for trying to divide the nation along ideological lines.

It would be better for Moon to leave the reassessment of Kim Won-bong in the hands of historians. It is not proper to reignite the historical issue and thus escalate the ideological conflict with the conservative camp ahead of the general elections set for next April. The rival parties should no longer try to divide the nation over partisanship.

We hope the nation will end the ideological dichotomy between the right and the left. Without doing so, we cannot become a mature democracy in a true sense.

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