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Monday, May 16, 2005

Paik Nak-chung and Park Chung-hee

The retired professor of English literature and a remarkable figure in the democracy struggle in the 1970s and 1980s Paik Nak-chung (Paek Nak-ch'ông) has raised some eyebrows with his article "How to Think About the Park Chung-hee Era", based on the presentation he gave late last year in Wollongong University, Australia in a conference 'The Park Era: A Reassessment After Twenty-five Years'. The text has already been available in English at the Creation and Criticism website for a long time, and now it is published in Korean in the Creation and Criticism (Ch'angjakkwa Pip'yông) quarterly.
The ones with raised eyebrows are the usual suspects; here's the Ohmynews piece on Paik's article, and the other one is from Pressian.
As I'm a bit busy to write any comments on pres. Park in the ROK more than 25 years after his death, I'll quote prof Paek from his English-language article:
Participants and inheritors of the democratic struggle in South Korea, therefore, have every reason to be proud of their input in the performance of the Korean economy over the past quarter-century, and need not be chary about acknowledging Park's 'meritorious service' for the ambiguous but undeniable thing that it was. Such acknowledgment is also necessary precisely in order to overcome the 'Park Chung Hee nostalgia' of our day, which threatens not only the immediately pending democratic reforms but the larger task of creating a new paradigm of truly sustainable - or, as I prefer to put it, life-sustaining - development. Naturally I am not dismissing in the name of 'Park Chung Hee nostalgia' all positive assessments of his leadership or any legitimate criticisms of current leadership. But whatever shortcomings we may deplore in the latter, the one thing we do not need today is another Park Chung Hee, far removed as our world has become from his days. Indeed, this very nostalgia for Park betokens the worst legacies of his era: its indifference to basic rights (including the rights of the entrepreneurs to run their business without arbitrary Government interference), insensitivity to human suffering, aversion to solving problems through dialogue and compromise, and ignorance of any individual or communal aspirations larger than the beggar's philosophy of 'Let's live well'. But these legacies will continue to exercise their pathological influence until the Park era has been adequately assessed and Park Chung Hee, too, given his due.
Even as late as 1989, Paek Nak-chung was a scholar whom the ROK authorities prevented to participate in a conference on the minjung (popular masses) movement in the US.

And while we're on the subject, Ohmynews tells also about the publication of a two-volume cartoon book on Pak-t'ong(*).

(*)Shortened from Pak Chông-hûi taet'ongnyông, President Park)

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