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Senior leaders should play a role at this critical moment

Senior leaders should play a role at this critical moment

Posted March. 01, 2017 07:05,   

Updated March. 01, 2017 07:12


People who are in favor of and oppose the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye plan to hold a massive protest, respectively, on the March 1 Independence Movement Day. As those who oppose the president’s impeachment have decided to march towards the presidential office and the Constitutional Court, there are concerns about any physical conflict with those who support impeaching the president in the Gwanghwamun Square. Police plan to set up walls with buses and deploy many police forces to separate them, but an unwanted confrontation between the two groups might happen.

The opponents held a torch and a bat, and some are said to have brought a sickle and a gasoline container. The protestors of both groups have already been insulting and slandering each other and had scuffles in front of the Constitutional Court. Politicians who are supposed to show a leadership of reconciliation and integration are rather instigating confrontations for the upcoming presidential election. Presidential candidates plan to attend the protests of both groups. While all call for patriotism, they think others with a different idea as enemies.

Unfortunately, nobody is taking the lead in defusing the tensions. National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun issued a statement to the public on Tuesday and stressed to politicians, “It should never happen that politicians and the government, which have a primary responsibility for national integration, become another source of division and conflicts.” As the leader of the legislative branch, Chung should not stop there and be committed to guiding both ruling and opposition parties and key presidential candidates to accept the outcome of the ruling of the Constitutional Court. The same applies to Acting President Hwang Gyo-ahn. When late former President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached in 2004 and the financial market was experiencing turbulence, the then Acting President Goh Kun met civic groups and requested them to refrain from holding protests, making them promise that they would hold only one more protest and try not to do it anymore. Hwang should request the group opposing impeachment first to refrain from holding a protest immediately.

We propose senior leaders representing both ruling and opposition parties and left and right wings appeal to citizens to stay calm. What would it be like if they go to the protest sites and ask both parties to calm down? We miss senior leaders such as late Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan and Venerable Beopjeong. The March 1 Independence Movement Day was the first massive non-violent independence movement against the Japanese colonial rule since the World War I. Thirty three people representing Korea back then led national protests based on the principles of unity and non-violence, regardless of ideology, religion and age. At this critical moment when this country’s democracy is at stake, we cannot hear the voice from the wild, saying, “The country should not split into two.”