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The May 16 Coup Was the Best Choice?
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A strong presidential candidate, lawmaker Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party revealed her thoughts saying, "I think that it (the May 16 Coup) was inevitably the best decision that my late father could have made."

Yesterday Park participated in a debate hosted by the Korea News Editors' Association and spoke, "I believe that the May 16 Coup laid the foundation for the present Korea." Five years ago, Park praised the May 16 Coup as "a revolution that saved the country" during the Grand National Party's presidential candidate race.

In her words--"the best decision," "a revolution that saved the country"--we can see that her evaluation of her father, Park Chung-hee, is unshakeable.

Apparently, Park used a more subtle expression, "the best decision," instead of the "revolution that saved the country," which aroused endless discussions for the past five years.

Park Chung-hee(left), Park Geun-hye.



It reveals her intention to calm some of the opposition to her glorifying the May 16 Coup--which history clearly records as a coup d'etat--as "a revolution that saved the country."

However, in our view, this is only a makeover with not the slightest change in her support for the May 16 Coup. It may even be a step in the wrong direction considering how she added a substantive assessment by specifying the abstract remarks made five years before. Just as

Park added at the end of her statement that she was "her father's girl," confessing that she had a deeper understanding of her father's political and economic philosophy, she once again revealed her limitations of being unable to break away from her "father's shadow."

As a strong presidential candidate, Park's understanding of the May 16 Coup holds serious problems for it ultimately reflects shallow views on democracy and history. According to Park, the people should be lenient to the May 16 Coup, because it brought favorable outcomes despite its procedural problems.

We would like to question Park, if this means she consents to the destruction of democracy and violation of human rights for the sake of a goal, economic development. We can't shake off this feeling of deja vu: it's like a revival of the authoritarian rule of the 1960s and 70s.

As one historian pointed out, this is an error occurring from a failure to distinguish between "his best" and "our best." This is no different from the rationale behind the statement, "A successful coup d'etat cannot be punished," which appalled the people when we were eradicating traces of the Fifth Republic of Korea.

Even if Park acknowledged that the May 16 Coup was clearly wrong and should not be repeated, and then asked the people to look at the results of the coup, it would not change the merits and demerits.

The knowledge on democracy and history of a nation's leader, along with his/her philosophy and beliefs, is more significant in influencing the people's lives than any policy. In reality, democracy is slow to progress, but very easy to retreat. It is certainly inefficient, for it pursues the happiness of everyone who constitutes our society and not just a select few.

As an individual, it may be wrong for a daughter to contradict her father, as we can read in between the lines of Park's statement. However, Park has announced that she will become more than a mere individual, and run a nation.

Therefore, it is only right that she overcomes the mistakes of her father. That is how history progresses. Refusing to record the May 16 Coup as a coup d'etat is defying history and is merely a provocation.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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