Roh memorial allows tense truce in opposition

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 23, 2013 - 20:25
  • Updated : May 23, 2013 - 20:25
Flocks of opposition politicians gathered in Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, on Thursday, for the 4th annual memorial service for late President Roh Moo-hyun.

While they stood together, paid their respects and sang “March for Thee” in unison, the tension was ever so palpable.

Amongst those present were Kim Han-gil, the recently elected Democratic Party chairman who took the lead in blaming the pro-Roh faction for the major election defeats last year, and Moon Sung-keun, a former Supreme Council member of the party and a key figure in the pro-Roh faction, who bolted from the party earlier this month amid growing factional fighting.
A visitor looks around the commemoration hall of former President Roh Moo-hyun in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap News)

Just four days ago, Kim was blocked and hit in the chest by Roh supporters who called him unscrupulous during a memorial event for Roh in downtown Seoul. Nine days before that, Kim was shunned by another key pro-Roh figure, Myung Kye-nam, when he visited the village where Roh had retired until his suicide in 2009.

The rift between the so-called pro-Roh and non-Roh factions has been considered one of the Democratic Party’s critical weaknesses.

While Roh’s unconventional “flexible progressivism” lost support during his presidency, his death sparked a resurgence among his supporters, making him the most-loved former president, only rivaled by former President Park Chung-hee in surveys. Within the Democratic Party, Roh remains the central force, but ironically more as a source of friction than of impetus.

While Roh-loyalist Rep. Moon Jae-in became the unrivaled presidential candidate in the 2012 election, he faced the paradoxical task of distancing himself from Roh as factional division deepened. With pro-Roh members swearing that there is no such clique, as they share only Roh’s vision and not any hegemonic power, the party’s road toward reconciliation looks to be a long one.

Roh’s memorial service, nonetheless, was a brief moment of truce. “We will march forward away from division or confrontation to realize the world envisioned by Roh,” the Democratic Party said in a statement.

The ceremony was also joined by ruling Saenuri Party floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan, senior presidential secretary Lee Jung-hyun and former prime minister Han Myeong-sook.

By Lee Joo-hee (