The Gwangju Snub

18 May

It’s fitting that ROK president, Lee Myung-bak, should tell Myanmar’s dissident leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, that “‘…democracy should never be sacrificed for economic development…Democracy is as important as the economy, and she completely agreed.'” Because, then, no one wonders why he would attend a ceremony at Naypyitaw lamenting the attempted assassination of a dictator by the North Koreans on October 9, 1983, and shirk the anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising on May 18, 1980.

At a ceremony attended by 2,500 people, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said, “We need to inherit the spirit of the May 18th uprising and establish higher level of democracy through communication and compromise instead of conflicts and opposition.”

This year’s theme for the commemoration was ‘light of hope, re-blooming flower’, honoring spirit of victims and reasserting hard-won value of democracy, rights and justice.

President Lee Myung-bak didn’t attend the commemoration event in Gwangju, a city that is a stronghold of the political opposition to Mr. Lee and his conservative political party.

The uprising is widely seen as leading to the birth of the democratization movement, which took full flower in 1987 when civilian protests brought an end to military rule.

Until the late 1990s, however, the events in 1980 in Gwangju were characterized as a riot. In 1997, the movement was re-evaluated and officially acknowledged as a democratization movement.

It’s reassuring to know Lee has his priorities straight.

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