Count Dracula and the Three Kims

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 7, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Count Dracula and the Three Kims

There are always many moviegoers who are eager to see such hair-raising films as ``Dracula.''

They seem to enjoy the thrill of seeing blood-sucking vampire pouncing on their prey, often an innocent ``maiden.''

Hidden behind their die-hard enthusiasm is, perhaps, a kind of minor sado-masochistic streak common among most human beings.

It is no wonder then that we see sequel after sequel of this eerie tale.

Film buffs seem especially enthralled by the moment of Dracula's resurrection from his tomb in the dead of the night, but along with their awe comes questions:

``How could he come back to life even after he was stabbed in the heart? How could he be resurrected after his body was turned into ashes and blown away by the wind in the wake of the zealot pastor's fatal attack with the cross?''

A similarly unbelievable story of resurrection has been unfolding in Korea, a real-life saga which Koreans have been watching for the past half century in the domestic political sphere.

The perennial resurrectors are none other than the so-called three Kims -- Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil.

Back in the political limelight once again is former president Kim Young-sam, who launched a scathing verbal attack Tuesday against his lifetime political nemesis Kim Dae-jung, the incumbent president, during a visit to South Kyongsang Province, his political stronghold.

Kim's resumption of political activities in earnest has long been a foregone conclusion in light of his house dinner meetings with opposition lawmakers, his hand-picked proteges from the Pusan-Kyongnam (P-K) region.

Not too long ago, Kim announced a press conference which was apparently aimed at attacking the incumbent president, but called it off on the advice of his aides.

To be exact, it can be said that Kim has never really stopped engaging in political activities, since he appears to have been remote-controlling the lawmakers from the P-K area ever since ending his term as the nation's president in 1997.

Kim's anti-Kim Dae-jung remarks drew harsh criticism from the ruling camp and the general public, who can readily recall how poorly the former head of state performed his presidential duties in the economic field, a fact which contributed to the sudden collapse of the Korean economy in 1997.

Kim's unseemly political resurrection was apparently helped by his rival -- President Kim Dae-jung, who successfully navigated South Korea through the foreign currency crisis but who has poorly performed in domestic politics and is now under public criticism for tolerating corruption in the recent by-elections.

Over the past 40 years, the two Kims regularly engaged in an precarious dance of collaboration and confrontation on the political stage.

They fought for democracy together against the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan from the 1960s-80s.

Kim Young-sam brought about the downfall of Park's Yushin regime in 1979 with his undaunting resistance and sowed the seeds of democracy with his near-death hunger strike in May 1983, conducted on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Kwangju Civil Uprising.

Kim Dae-jung is also an undisputed democratic fighter who was put on death row in 1980 by the Chun regime and before that, barely escaped with his life after Park's henchmen kidnapped him in Tokyo. Kim's arrest was also the direct cause of the tragic Kwangju incident.

The two Kims are the helpers and savers of each other. Ironically, it was Kim Young-sam who inadvertently pulled Kim Dae-jung out of political oblivion after his presidential election defeat in 1992 through his ``obsessive'' maneuvering to bury his rival with his ``new generation'' policy.

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