Next time you see press coverage that characterizes the “Reverend” Han Song Ryol as a “liberal” or “peace activist,” his own words will add to your insight about just how tortured the words “liberal” and “peace” have been at the meaty hands of some correspondents. How does one apply such words to an avowed supporter of the world’s most belligerent and least liberal regime?
“Our land and people in the North are armed with weaponry far more powerful than nuclear weapons – solid unity, self-containment, and revolutionary optimism fuelled by the Juche ideology,” Han said.
Cozying up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, he said, “I genuinely respect, love and desire to obey you. He also attacked the findings of a multinational investigation on the sinking of the Cheonan, calling it the “pinnacle of Lee Myung-bak’s pack of lies. He blamed President Lee for sending the sailors to their deaths. [Joongang Ilbo]
Han Song Ryol is a fascist, not a liberal. Aijalon Gomes is a liberal. Even “Reverend” is difficult to allow. Han worships Kim Jong Il, but if that qualifies Han as a cleric, then you must allow that Juche is a religion, in the same sense that the Peoples’ Temple and Al Qaeda’s brand of Wahhabism are religions. The evidence that Han worships a higher God is far less clear.
Han Song Ryol is a charlatan, a traitor, and a fool. But this does not justify the South Korean government’s ham-handed decision to arrest and make a martyr of him. Indeed, I take issue with the Joongang Ilbo’s editorialists mixing these two issues:
What’s more disheartening is that there are people who applaud Han’s stunt. Some 150 members of a local branch of the progressive Democratic Labor Party held a ceremony to welcome the pastor back home. Some civilian activist groups based in North Jeolla Province also protested against his arrest. These groups should declare what side they’re on. What part of Han’s actions do they approve of? Are they followers of the North Korean regime, too?
If you hold a ceremony to welcome Han Song Ryol back home, you’re either a paid-up member of the Fifth Column or willfully ignorant of facts that would make any reasonable thinker want to dissociate himself from Han. Not that this should surprise us in the case of the Democratic Labor Party, whose North Korean influence was so brazen that it resulted in criminal convictions during the Roh Administration and split the party itself.
I’m also cynical enough to suspect that in practice, the same probably also applies to those who bothered to protest Han’s arrest publicly, though I also protest the fact of Han’s arrest for his words, and I can’t remember the first or last time anyone accused me of being a follower of the North Korean regime. The South Korean government’s prosecution of repellent ideas has only glorified those ideas (and in due course, we’ll also learn that North Korea’s suppression of dissent was less successful than we tend to estimate).
Far better for South Korea to have simply denied Han reentry into South Korea. It would more than suffice as Han’s punishment to let him live by what he preaches, and he could hardly complain about spending the rest of his life in a place he mischaracterizes as a paradise. Wouldn’t life in North Korea be punishment enough for any fool? Certainly it would be a fascinating thought experiment. I suspect it would be just a matter of time before Han would misspeak, be reported by a neighbor, and vanish into a Peace Forest one night. When that time comes, who in the Democratic Labor Party do you suppose will stand up for his right to free speech then?