|▲ President Wonwoong Kim|
This year marks 100th birthday of the March 1st Movement. We all must remember that Korea today is built on the sacrifice of those who died fighting against the colonial Japanese. Therefore, it is important we honor them and their offspring. Regretfully, many of those who sacrificed their lives for their country have still been ignored from the due respect and reward of the government. The establishment of the Korea Liberation Association came from this awareness as well as the will to pay honor and respect to the independence activists and their offspring. The association has recently elected Wonwoong Kim as its new leader whose term starts from June 1st. On May 4, the Democratic Party leader Haechan Lee and a supreme member Hoon Sul paid a visit to the office of the Korea Liberation Association to meet Kim and board members. <Power Korea> met Kim and heard the story.
Promoting national spirit, national development and unification
It is the goal of the Korea Liberation Association. Yet the association started its actions by engaging in conferring Order of Merit for National Foundation to 204 independence activists in 1962 which had nothing much to do with its original intention; and this was the reason that the association has been seen as a subordinate group of a certain political circle and their influence. Having seen this derailed practices of the association for many years, Kim rolled up his sleeve to bring changes as the youngest president (76) of the association.
Kim is the eldest son of the independence activist father Geunsoo Kim and the Korean Women Liberation Army activist mother Wolson Jeon. As a proud offspring of patriot parents, Kim is determined to re-establish the association according to its original intention and to promotion of national spirit, national development and unification of the two Koreas.
He regrets deeply that pro-Japanese Koreans and their offspring have taken important posts of the government since the Liberation due to unfinished business of clearing pro-Japanese collaborators and groups. It is even more regretful that nationalists are lashed out as ‘commies’ and often the subject of crackdown. In this respect, he emphasizes, that the Liberation has not yet happened in South Korea in its true meaning.
Pro-Japanese Glorification Prohibition Law
Kim strongly expressed his objection that the main stream of the Korean society is under influence of pro-Japanese and they must be replaced with nationalists if we were to resume the true identity of Korea which has been lost for so many years. He said that pro-Japanese had taken the army chief of staff from the 1st to 18th chief who cracked down independence army and activists as well as patriotic volunteer soldiers; in addition, most military officers came from the military academy under Japanese influence and it is shocking that both patriots and traitors are buried together in the Seoul National Cemetery; the pro-Japanese media also played part in this.
Before taking the wheel of the Korea Liberation Association, Kim served as the head of a a lawmaker’s club formed to clear the vestiges of Japanese imperialism and played a role to change the name of the former ‘kukminhakgyo’ to the current ‘chodeunghakgyo’: both means ‘elementary school’ but the former is the name the imperial Japanese used. He also served as the head of the Federation of the Pro-Independence Activist Associations which includes commemoration societies of Junggeun An, Woonhyung Lyuh, Bonggil Yun and Chaeho Sin.
When Changgeuk Moon (a prime minister candidate during the Park Administration) said “the Japan’s rule over Korea is the will of god”, Kim took the lead of a rally denouncing his absurd remark while also taking the lead to file an injunction against pro-Japanese textbooks of Kyohaksa (publishing company).
Recently, as the newly elected president of the Korea Liberation Association, he is determined to conduct a campaign to propose ‘Pro-Japanese Glorification Prohibition Law’ (tentative) to the National Assembly.
Men of National Merit and Men of Independence Merit
Kim opinionates that the Korea Liberation Association must move unto the Office of the Prime Minister from the current Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. When he first entered the National Assembly in 1992, he could find not a single law relating to honoring independence activists alone. So he worked hard for 3 years to introduce one. However, he points out the fact that legally, independence activists are within the boundary of Men of National Merit under the current law but the two must be treated separately such as ‘Men of National Merit’ and ‘Men of Independence Merit’.
“The US separates independence activists from the victims of the Civil War and France also treats the Resistance differently. What I’m saying is that treatment of independence activists and their offspring in South Korea are still being treated poorly. My campaign of separating ‘Men of Independence Merit’ from ‘Men of National Merit’ is part of this effort which is to improve the due respect and benefits of independence activists and their offspring.
Equal government support is needed
Kim points out that the budget allocated to the Korea Liberation Association is 1/10 of the budgets allocated to the military and the police related organizations. Budget tells policies, says Kim, and for this reason, he wants the Korea Liberation Association moved unto the direct influence of the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The Moon Administration is the result of the Candlelight Revolution and the government is well aware of its line of descent that started from the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. So I think the Moon Administration knows the will of the people more than any previous governments. Therefore, I ask the government to pay more attention to independence activists and patriots and how their offspring are living under what circumstances and provide due respect and support if necessary.”
It is not an easy task for us to make things right. But it always is worth trying to correct what is wrong to what is right. In this respect, the devotion of members of the Korea Liberation Association is meaningful.
백종원 기자 email@example.com