Ex-progressive fights old friends
Rev. Suh Kyung-suk, who was once the godfather of pro-North Korea forces, is now committing himself to fight against leftists in his bid to root out what he calls “distorted ideology.”
“When I was a college student, I was an extreme leftist tainted with North Korea’s juche idea,” said Suh, a 65-year-old civil rights activist.
Fighting for democracy against the dictatorship of President Park Chung-hee in 1960s, Suh served three successive jail terms on charges of violating the then notorious anti-communist law.
In the ideologically divided country, socialist ideas prevailed in the 1960s until the ‘80s among students, activists and the elite and Suh was one of them. “In retrospect, my thoughts seemed to be far away from the truth,” he said.
“I heard the truth about North Korea when I was studying theology in America through families and friends who had been to the impoverished state,” he said. It was only then his illusion about the North crumbled to dust.
“After finishing my studies in America, I went to Yanbian, China, to meet defectors. At that time, 64 North Korean escapees were executed as soon as they were repatriated.”
“In Yanbian, those defectors used to whisper their stories in my ears under the blanket so that no one could see or overhear.”
Suh said it was a huge shock. “I thought it was a sort of crime if I ignored this problem and continued to pursue such an inhumane ideology as juche, which many North Korea sympathizers still do,” Suh said.
Given his experience as a leftist activist, he said he is fully aware of why South Korea’s communist driven National Liberation Party (NLP) and People’s Democracy Party (PDP) are wrong and have misleading ideologies.
Yet, surprisingly there still are many NLP and PDP followers, as the country tries to allow a broad political spectrum under democracy.
Serving as a pastor at the Seoul Korean-Chinese Church, Suh not only helps ethnic Korean people from China but also defectors, as well as civic society movements against leftist activities. He also helped North Korean defectors come to the South in the Chinese border city of Yanbian.
“South Korea is a unique country where a stark ideological distinction is drawn across the nation. It is a tragedy that people fight over nonsense,” he said.
His main concern is the public instability prompted by the leftists who constantly forge conspiracy theories about the incumbent regime.
Suh holds rallies in support of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, the construction of the Jeju naval base in Gangjeong village and against repatriation of defectors detained in China.
He has even incurred 40 million won ($35,000) debt, in his campaign to support the construction of the Jeju naval base with his own money.
He has been the target of criticism from opposition parties for his “ideological trait” with a focus on right-wing activities. Despite this, Suh has never succumbed, determined to press ahead with his campaign toward a new direction.
“I will continue to fight for righteousness at every cost,” he said.