firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
The Misled 'Debt' to the Protesters
The ruling party suffered a crushing defeat in the local elections on May 31st. What is responsible for the result? There are a number of possible answers, including the following:
"The majority of Korean people owe the protesters for their contribution to democratization in this nation. The debt has helped the protesters maintain the power. However, since coming into power, what they have done is only disappointing the Korean people. Disappointed and indignant with their hopeless power, the Korean people came to determine that having kept them in power was enough to terminate the creditor-debtor relations, and the determination made them turn their back on the protesters."
This answer seems to properly explain part of the recent record defeat, but upon closer inspection, the answer appears to require some modification. It overlooks the fact that how the majority of Koreans have thought about the protesters in relation to Korea's democratization is largely attributed to a myth. It is partly true that the protesters have finally contributed to democracy in Korea to some extent, but in fact, they have never hoped for democratization in Korea from the bottom of their hearts.
More specifically, the protester group fighting against the authoritarian regime in the 1980s without fear of imprisonment advocated the Juche Ideology or Marxism-Leninism, and followers of the former were called the 'NL Party', while those of the latter were called the 'PD Party'. Yet neither was interested in true freedom nor democracy, as both fought for a world where true freedom and democracy would be thoroughly eliminated. There is no doubt about this as the former is fighting for a Juche Ideology-dominating world and the latter for a Marxism-Leninism-dominating world were both hostile to true freedom and democracy.
What does it mean that the protesters contributed to Korea's democracy in the long run? The NL Party, the majority among the protester groups pushing for a constitutional amendment for direct election in 1987, decided to take part in and dedicate their efforts to the protest.
With their significant efforts to the protest, they are highly credited for the successful amendment. Yet, the achievement was not originated from their wholehearted desire for democratization. They only hoped to make the Juche Ideology dominate the world, and what made them aggressively fight for the amendment was only their judgement that it would be a shortcut to their ultimate goal.
It is completely understandable that those who wanted democracy in Korea felt indebted to the protestors, but if the debt resulted from the misleading intention of the protesters, then it would be safe to say the debt contains a critical misunderstanding. If the debt should be paid off today, it should be made clear first that the debt contains such a critical misunderstanding.
As with the PD Party who turned a deaf ear to the constitutional amendment for direct election in 1987, there was no 'debt' to them from the first. If the PD protesters in the 1980s took advantage of the 'debt', then it would be no exaggeration to say that they have enjoyed the undeserved benefit of a free ride.
Yi Dong-ha (Prof. of Korean Literature Dept., Univ. of Seoul)