On the morning of May 23, all the nations were in shock over ex-president Roh Moo Hyun’s death. He was given a national funeral and funeral parades in honor of the deceased filled Korea. During the period, even children and elderly people mourned over his demise with white chrysanthemums. Some people cried their eyes out.
However, there were cynical views regarding this phenomenon. What was the real reason people grieved for the deceased? Was their tears’ meaning from real respect for him as a president or just from personal sympathy for an individual? On the other hand, some people said it came from a backlash against the current government.
Though interpretations of the reason many people were crying vary, one thing is evenly true. The death of Mr. Roh provided an opportunity for all the people to remember the forgotten ‘spirit of Roh Moo-hyun’. At this time, we have to think intently what we can do in order to show that his death was not in vain. The university students especially, called ‘the people leading a country’, have to put his spirit into action.
■ What kind of person was Mr. Roh?
# President who emphasized justice and principles
He valued his principles above his life. It was also the reason that he respected Abraham Lincoln. When he entered politics first, he chose Kim Gu as a feature he respected. But, he assessed that Kim Gu was also defeated in Korean history because he had been assassinated. 'Why did Korea lose great men in recent and contemporary history? Why did the country lose the people who had a proper mental attitude?’ These questions were concluded with the sentence, ‘In Korean history, justice is defeated.’ Mr. Roh couldn’t admit it, so he looked for another feature who could take Kim Gu’s place. Finally, he discovered ‘a successful Kim Gu’, Abraham Lincoln, who could show that justice won. He said that he could get confidence and courage to make great history from Abraham Lincoln.
Meanwhile, Mr. Roh realized anti-Machiavellism(반마키아벨리즘). ‘Machiavellism’ means a harsh political policy used to achieve one’s purpose regardless of the means. That is, ‘The end justifies the means. You can use immoral means only if the purpose is good.’
Some ex-presidents like Park Jung-hee and Roh Tae-woo used this theory, but they failed. On the other hand, Roh Moo-hyun insisted that the means must always be right even if purpose is very good. A person who maintains principles is usually treated as foolish, but he couldn’t be. No, he wasn’t.
# President who communicated with nations
When we recall his face, we also remember his nickname, ‘Roh Ganji’, ‘ordinary people’s president’. Since he was called this, he was a president but still had a down-home personality. He always encouraged the nation’s participation and communication. Also, he didn’t assert his authority as a president, but as being together with the nation.
A division in voting behavior between the Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces started from the Park Jung-hee era. Mr. Roh didn’t want this, so he ran for the National Assembly in Busan, not Seoul, which was favorable for his party. He thought that if he was elected as a member of the National Assembly in Busan, it could mean the union of the Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces. Finally, he was defeated three times. He has been called ‘fool Roh Moo-hyun’ since then.
‘Let’s make a society where the poor get to live well, not for only the rich.’ It was his motto. If this motto would be realized, the rich’s income would be getting relatively lower. However, it was not realistic, because the people who have the vested interests are almost all rich. Because of this, Mr. Roh chose a different path emphasizing equality, but he couldn’t form a broad public consensus on his policy. The nation knew this. They knew that he had made an effort to make a society where everyone communicated to each other. Therefore, many people supported him. They also protected him when he was impeached by the National Assembly.
■ What is ‘the spirit of Roh Moo-hyun’ that university students carry with them?
The students were usually the center of the struggle for true democracy, like in the ‘June democratic protest’ and ‘Gwangju student resistance movement’. Well then, in this case, would the students take the initiative for revealing the exact circumstances? Until now, they assumed a passive attitude, and maybe they would not. University students are recently busy living under increasing tuition fees and unemployment. Also, many people have been disappointed with the government.
On the other hand, the appearance of current university students looks very bitter, and the suicide of Roh certainly held vast implications for us. What do CBNU students really think about Roh?
The CBNU GLOBE heard CBNU students’ ideas about Roh and inheriting Roh’s spirit as university students.
# Jo Hae-jin (Dept. of Political Science and Diplomacy, 04)
I am positive about my evaluation of his government. And I heard he also entered politics as he represented the student activists. In the economy, he built up a good financial standing and staged politics through communication with the public as an ordinary people’s president. However, I was still careful to say anything about his suicide. We had to believe things we saw, so we didn’t know Roh’s mind because a dead person can’t speak. But Roh put an emphasis on morality under his authority. This kind of person was attacked on moral qualities by ongoing investigations, so he kept his innocence through sacrifice to the end. He felt a responsibility to his family and people around him. I said Roh’s spirit was certainly to challenge unreasonable things. Also, he represented the minority. University students should not be swayed by the value of our safety and employment and should speak largely to injustice, too. Also we kept an eye on his naively honest sides that generated the nickname, ‘stupid Roh Moo-hyun’.
# Kim Kyeong-jin (Dept. of Economics, 04)
I think Roh Moo-hyun was a failed politician in a sense. Unlike other politicians, he was a courageous man because he had political beliefs and stood firm in his views on others. I was impressed that he had a strong belief despite many people’s opposition to participatory government. Also most people are weak to the strong and strong to the weak. But his policy helped the weaker with the taxes as the richer paid. So I wanted him to speak honorably when the bribery scandal of people around him was spread. I was sorry that he killed himself in the end. No matter what happened, the act of giving up his life was not correct. Regardless of my evaluation of his life and his achievements, I think Roh Moo-hyun was a failed politician because of his last act.
# Kim Keum-ok (Dept.of Political Science and Diplomacy, 06)
I think Roh was a positive politician. I think his policy was not achieved successfully, but he established democracy in the Republic of Korea through participatory government. We expected to realize an open-minded society since we started democracy in our country, but we couldn’t get over the bonds of suppression because of an authoritarian political system caused by a military and dictatorial government. However, Roh helped to realize an open society in oneness with his difficult childhood and deep mind for ordinary people. Therefore, I expressed my deepest condolences and respect to a politician who took root of democracy. On the other hand, he didn’t yield his views in many scandals and kept his political beliefs. He always maintained justice and didn’t yield wrong. Recently, university students settled for the present and avoided reform. In a situation like this, Roh’s spirit sets an example for us.
"If you are born again, don’t become a president again."
Han Myung-sook, former prime minister, recited this eulogy in a send-off ceremony for the deceasad May 29th. I, as a citizen and a person going around campus during the time of ex-President Roh, expressed condolences to Roh Moo-hyun. The remaining people continuously remember Roh Moo-hyun. Through this time, we have to watch the changes in our society. However, I definitely want to tell him now: ‘I think you died forlornly, so you wouldn’t become a President if you were born again. But when you were the 16th President, we were happy in Korea for a short while. And we carefully request you now. If you are born again, please become a president again.’