True Colors

13 Jun

Chun Doo-hwan, Rehabilitated Nothing says contempt for democracy like a photograph of a traitor and a murderer returning a military salute.

Former president Chun Doo-hwan has become the center of a hot discussion since Friday when military cadets at Korea Military Academy saluted him during a parade and he saluted back. Mr. Chun, who went to the school in the 1950s, attended the event to celebrate the 20 billion won ($17million) that was raised for the school’s development fund.

Chun’s protege, Roh Tae-woo, has also given his country a finger of another sort, two fingers and a thumb rubbing together.

Another president who made himself fodder for satire is Roh Tae-woo, the immediate successor to Mr. Chun. He was a close aide to Mr. Chun when they attended the KMA and later assisted him during the 1979 military coup.

The ailing Mr. Roh made news on Monday by asking the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul to investigate his in-law family who he claimed “misused” his slush funds of 23 billion won that he had “left with them” in the early 1990s.

Mr. Roh was also convicted of treason and corruption in 1995 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 260 billion won in repetition. He also got pardoned in 1997, alongside Mr. Chun. So far he paid back some 240 billion won. Mr. Roh said he will be able to complete the payment once he receives the secret money from his in-laws, according to the prosecutors.

Revival of two military dictators (Hankyoreh) Chun himself has tax issues with Seoul. The Joongang Daily argued, that the two disgraced dictators “…should demonstrate decency by respecting the law. If they cannot do that, they should at least keep a low profile for the sake of the country.” I wouldn’t lose sleep if the state executed both – treason is the one offense for which the death penalty is entirely appropriate.

Just for color, Tim Shorrock recounts the true story of the collusion between Chun, Roh, and the Carter administration in the United States, that culminated in the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. It should be reflexive for a society that prides itself on its democratic turn and economic prosperity, that South Koreans would explode in anger when these two murderers express such contempt. That no one does gives me the chills, because a salute is not only a pro forma exercise for a soldier. It’s an expression of respect between two honorable combatants. That such immature cadets would offer such a potent tribute to such a monster indicates disrespect for their constitution by honoring one man and a complete inability to make moral judgments.

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