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2017-11-15 16:39
Tuesday was the 100th birthday of President Park Chung-hee (1917-1979), the father of former President Park Geun-hye (2013-2017) now standing trial for corruption charges after her impeachment.

Despite her father’s accomplishments in national development, particularly in the economic field, during his 18-year dictatorship from 1961 to 1979, he is also not free from the dark side of his legacy following his seizure of power through the May 16, 1961 coup.

Society is still divided over how to evaluate him, between the conservatives from the present opposition bloc and progressives from the ruling camp.

Now civil campaigns have been launched for the erection of his statue at the Park Chung-hee Memorial Library in Seoul and for the publication of a commemorative stamp, only to face tough opposition from the government and progressive forces.

This opposition has been made fiercer because of his disgraced daughter.

No one can deny he led the then-poor Republic of Korea on the path to economic prosperity from the ashes of the devastating 1950-53 Korean War to global admiration under the catchphrase, "modernization of the fatherland."

It is also true the Army general-turned-president left an indelible stain on Korean democracy through suffocating social oppression and restriction of liberties, causing severe pain to many of his opponents.

It is hard to evaluate history or historical persons objectively, if the past is judged by the standard of today's ideological or political interests. In the face of mounting security threats from North Korea armed with nuclear missiles and ever-intensifying international competition in the economy, we have no time to waste national energy in indulging only in internal disputes over the past.

For that, the two opposing sides should take a step back from the heat of the moment and call a truce for now. This means both sides will be more open-minded and engage in more debates so as to allow diverse evaluations rather than black-or-white ones to emerge.

 

 

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