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The Yoon Seok-yeol government decided to remove the bust of Independence War hero General Hong Beom-do from the Military Academy. In addition, we are considering changing the name of the Navy submarine ‘Hong Beom-do’ and revoking the National Foundation Medal awarded to Minister Hong. The government is taking issue with his history of membership in the Soviet Communist Party. What is the real reason why the government is suddenly shaking General Hong? I asked reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol.
[ The 1] Why is the government trying to remove the bust of General Hong from the Korean Military Academy?
Reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol: There has been a long-standing controversy over whether the roots of the ROK Armed Forces are the Independence Army or Liberation Army or the U.S. Military Government and National Defense Guard. The Moon Jae-in administration believed that the roots of the national army lie in the independence army and liberation army. That is why in 2018, busts of the independence and liberation forces were erected at the military headquarters. However, the Yoon Seok-yeol government, which shares a view of history with former generals and far-right forces, sees the U.S. military administration and National Defense Guard as the beginning of the military state. So, they believe that the history of the independence movement is incompatible with their view of history .
The independence movement involved not only right-wingers such as liberalism and anti-communism, but also people with all kinds of diverse ideas, including communism and anarchism. However, in the Yoon administration’s view, the ROK military has only existed to protect the ROK-US alliance and fight against communism. This must be done in order to cover the original sin of right-wing forces. [ The 2] What is the original sin? Reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol: It’s a pro-Japanese collaborator. If we acknowledge the history of the independence movement, the history of pro-Japanese relations will inevitably be revealed . General Paik Sun-yup is a representative example. Paik Sun-yup entered the Manchurian Army Officer Training School (of Manchukuo, a puppet state established by Japan) on his own initiative. He served as an officer in the Japanese army for five years and went out to capture the independence army for his own gain. Then, when the Japanese Empire fell, he changed his course and became a general in Korea. He also served in the Korean War. It is the same as the behavior of many people who joined the United States and anti-communism after liberation, survived the liquidation of pro-Japanese groups, and became mainstream in each field.
[ The 3] But didn’t General Paik Sun-yup make a contribution in the Korean War? There are also stories inside and outside the military that the government is trying to erect a bust of General Baek at the military headquarters instead of General Hong.
Reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol: It is very difficult to judge Baek Seon-yeop’s merits and demerits. The current government says that Paik Sun-yup saved the country, but even the soldiers who fought in the war together are not acknowledging that fact. He was the commander of the 1st Division and was in Kaesong, then South Korea. However, when the North Korean army attacked from Kaesong, the 1st Division could not offer any resistance. There is also a claim that he went to an army hall party held in Seoul the day before, drank alcohol and fell asleep, and was unable to return to his unit.
Baek Seon-yeop is a person who has been treated well his whole life. He served as a general throughout his 30s, ambassador to France and Canada in his 40s, and minister of transportation and president of a public enterprise in his 50s. After his 60s, he was held up as a symbol 먹튀검증of the ROK-US alliance and a ‘star of patriotism.’ However, like his father, General Hong worked as a laborer and mine worker, fought on the cold battlefields of Manchuria, and when he got older, was forcibly taken to Kazakhstan and died while working as a security guard at a theater. Looking at the life paths of the two men, who would be the person in the military that officers could emulate?
[ The 4] Wouldn’t President Yoon Seok-yeol also want to remove the bust of General Hong because it would benefit him politically?
Reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol:If you think about common sense, you would think that shaking up General Hong, who is respected by the public, would not help the election or politics. Each of the two parties has a 30% swing support base, and the basic election strategy is to bring in more votes from the 40% of voters in the middle. But President Yoon is not an ordinary president . It appears that his only goal was to become president. He’s not running for president again, and he doesn’t have any policies he wants to implement. They just destroy what the previous administration did, and punish those they think are bad guys, like they did during the prosecutors’ time, by calling them ‘anti-state forces’. Difficult issues such as low birth rate, peace on the Korean Peninsula, and climate crisis are left alone.
[ The 5] The ruling party defends that ‘the president is doing things that are not helpful to votes in order to establish a national foundation.’ Reporter Kwon Hyuk-cheol: The cauldron of the Republic of Korea’s identity has
three legs: independence, patriotism, and democracy . Therefore, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs has an obligation to honor all independence fighters, war veterans, and democratization contributors. But look at President Yoon and Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Park Min-sik. They are trying to kick away the two bridges of ‘independence’ and ‘democracy’ and leave only the bridge of ‘patriotism’. At the same time, they say that they are ‘working to establish the identity of the Republic of Korea’, so it is difficult to understand. It is not possible to monopolize history in a democratized Korea like it is now. Power must know that it must be humble in the face of history.