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President Park Geun-hye and Rep. Jeon Soon-ok

Posted June. 12, 2014 07:00,   


The two people couldn’t get closer to each other due to father and elder brother. President Park Chung-hee was driving force of saving Korea from poverty, and Jeon Tae-il was a pioneer of labor movement as he resisted by burning himself to death. There is heated discussion, until now, on whether what is more desperate between a laborer being able to earn even a basic living or to live like a human being. President Park Geun-hye, who is a daughter of the late former President Park Chung-hee, and Jeon Soon-ok, lawmaker of New Politics Alliance for Democracy and younger sister of Jeon Tae-il, can`t simply meet each other undeterred by the past.

On Aug. 28, 2012, when Park Geun-hye was the presidential candidate for leading Saenuri Party, she wanted to visit Jeon Tae-il Foundation in northern Seoul but was blocked by unionized laborers of Ssangyong Motor. Rep. Jeon also issued opposition statement saying, "Solving labor issue should come first than visiting the foundation." President Park wanted to offer flowers to the statute of Jeon Tae-il in Cheongyecheon, but unionized workers threw the flowers on the street. President Park looked around the place where Jeon had burned himself in November 1970 saying, "Laborers are also human. I will make a country where industrial and democratic forces reconcile and collaborate."

Rep. Jeon Soon-ok will accompany President Park on her tour to three Central Asian countries that will last from June 16 to 21. President Park had repeatedly requested members of opposition parties to join in her overseas trip and it is the first time that the opposition party accepted it. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy said it recommended Rep. Jeon considering the symbolism of democracy and labor human rights she possesses. It put in mind Park Chung-hee and Jeon tae-il, and replied to the leading party`s request with a rose with thorn.

Traveling has the power of making unfamiliar person a friend. President Park grew up as a princess and has different background from Rep. Jeon. Yet the two will come to share things in common through conversation. Jeon received master`s and doctoral degree in the U.K. and thus is fluent in English, She also has experience in operating a company. The two people may be able to go beyond personal reconciliation and carry out an all-party diplomacy for the sake of national interest. The public is expecting this from the president and the leading and opposition parties.

Editorial writer Han Ki-heung (eligius@donga.com)