On Saturday, Korean President Park Geun-hye issued her statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan at the end of World War II. Korea.net (“the official website of the Republic of Korea”) published a 2,996 word, English translation of Park’s statement.
President Park opened by greeting Korean citizens at home and abroad and then got to her point:
“I join the entire Korean people in sharing the excitement and emotions that were felt on this day seventy years ago. I pay tribute to our forebears who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation’s independence and the patriots who dedicated themselves to founding the Republic of Korea.
From the depths of my heart, I convey my gratitude to those who served the cause of independence with distinction and to their families.
…Seventy years ago today, propelled by the yearning for independence and through selfless struggle, the Korean people at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.
The indomitable will and patriotism of those who gave their lives for this country formed the bedrock upon which the Republic of Korea would become the great nation that it is today.”
Park uttered the terms “economy” 14 times, “creative” nine times, and “creative economy” six times:
“Over the years, our Republic of Korea has been carrying forward the time-honored heritage and legitimacy of the Korean people, safeguarding our free democracy and laying the groundwork for the enduring prosperity of the economy for both the nation and its people. …Together with the Korean people who, with such dauntless resolve, have been writing a creative and miraculous history…. …we are facing a weak global economy and a host of difficulties here at home and abroad. …I believe we must consummate the twin wings of a creative economy…. The government has put forward the creative economy as a new paradigm for the economy and has been working to bring this vision to fruition. The establishment of all seventeen Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation in major cities and provinces was completed last month. Now, high quality start-up support services are available for anyone with creative ideas. …and thus generate new engines of growth for their economies. …I am convinced that the creative economy will serve as a driving force that injects vitality into our economy and helps propel the global economy. Looking ahead, the government will be vigorous in its support to make sure the creative economy becomes a new source of advancement for individuals and local economies. …With the potential to yield boundless economic value, culture also represents a key source of national competitiveness.
The Republic of Korea has a resplendent, unique culture that has continued throughout its venerable five-thousand-year history.
…When our time-honored culture – one that has attracted the attention of world – blossoms anew as it interacts with the world, the gateway to renewed takeoff could be unlocked.
…Insofar as the creative economy and cultural enrichment are engines that will propel our economic resurgence, the “four major reforms” of the public, labor, financial and education sectors form the basis for the innovation that will continue to power those engines.
Park noted that August 15 also marked the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea in 1948 and remarked at the pluck required to rebuild from the ravages of civil war:
The tragedy of our division and the ravages of the Korean War completely swept away the livelihood of our people. What meager industrial infrastructure we had collapsed thoroughly.
But we were far from daunted. Through unity of purpose and the strength of our people, our nation made great new strides forward.
Park again gave grievance to Korea’s contradictory position that statements of apology and remorse issued by Japan’s previous governments must stand while they are inadequate:
Since ties were normalized in 1965, the view of history articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, including in the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement, have been the key underpinnings of the Korea-Japan relationship. In this sense, it is hard to deny that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s statement of yesterday marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, did not quite live up to our expectations.
This notwithstanding, we take note of the message that was clearly conveyed to the international community; namely, that the position articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, based on its apologies and remorse for how Japan’s aggression and colonial rule caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries in Asia, and caused suffering to the “comfort women” victims, will remain unshakable into the future.
We look to the Japanese government to match with consistent and sincere actions its declaration that the view of history articulated by its previous cabinets will be upheld, and thereby win the trust of its neighbors and the international community.
Park spent the bulk of the remainder of her speech addressing reunification.
My immediate, one word reaction to Park’s statement is dismay.
Park followed the formula of her previous year’s address and that of her predecessor by ignoring America’s contributions, only crediting the “selfless struggle” of “the Korean people” who “at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.” She offered not even a hint that America and 8 million American soldiers actually did the liberating in the Korean people’s selfless struggle for liberation.
(Here’s Park’s sole reference to America, Americans, or the United States: “As the recent normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba and the Iranian nuclear deal attest, the international community is in the midst of a sweeping tide of change and cooperation. But North Korea is treading the opposite path.”)
Park’s speech with it’s overarching emphasis on the economy rather than liberation, freedom, and democracy had the nuts and bolts of a state of the union address. Rather than sing to the lofty aspirations of a maturing democratic republic, Park got weighed down by graven consumer goods and electronic gadgets: “Today, we have become a country producing some of the world’s finest electronic goods, automobiles, steel, ships and petrochemical products, and we stand tall as an economic powerhouse with export figures that are the sixth largest in the world.”
Given that Park had omitted America’s role in Korea’s liberation, she obviously could not articulate the role that America played in the miracle on the Han. Apparently, no thanks is necessary.
Regardless of the apology issue, Shinzo Abe offered a rhetorically stronger anniversary address, presenting Japan’s commitment to democratic ideals and the aspirations of a modern democracy and responsible world citizen. Park Geun-hye spoke of Korea’s pride in producing exports.
Contact Anonymous_Joe on Facebook