Days of Terrorism and Tenderness

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Days of Terrorism and Tenderness

Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese management strategist, contributed an article to a Korean newspaper last month. He wrote that he had hoped North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would apologize for the North''s past terrorist activities at the inter-Korean summit held in June. He was surprised that the leaders of the two Koreas shook hands without a word of an apology. In his article, Mr. Ohmae asked why South Koreans would forgive the North unconditionally, but never forgive Japan.

There are two responses among the Korean people. Some people said they were shocked to be told by a Japanese citizen whether the Koreans were dreaming of moving forward to the era of rosy inter-Korean relations without accepting apologies from the North over the atrocities commited in the past. Other people felt that Mr. Ohmae''s assessment was seriously flawed, saying that it was like a murderer blaming two warring siblings while absolving himself of guilt.

Fred Alford, an American political scientist, observed in his book "Think No Evil: Korean values in the Age of Globalization," which was translated into Korea about two months ago, that when the U.S. President Ronald Reagan characterized the former Soviet Union as the evil empire, many U.S. citizens felt a sense of safety, rather than risk. In the Western world, the practice of demonizing outsiders has played a role in allaying or, in some cases, manipulating fear, according to Mr. Alford. However, he argued that the situation between the two Koreas is different due to their common roots. Characterizing North Koreans as an evil force will create a sense of horror for most South Koreans. But South Koreans simply can''t alienate and demonize North Koreans as an evil forces from outside. Mr. Alford concluded that, unlike the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, Koreans are a family divided.

Mr. Alford pointed out that Koreans do not share the Western notion of the evil with regard to their brothers in the North. Rather, he argues that for Koreans, globalization has been the embodiment of evil.

At 2:01 p.m. on Nov. 29, 1987, Korean Air flight 858 exploded over the Indian Ocean, killing 115 passengers, mostly South Korean laborers working in the Middle East. A North Korean agent, Kim Hyon-hui, was responsible for the bombing. She was transferred to Seoul on Dec. 15 of the same year, a day before the presidential election in a move that helped Roh Tae-woo win the election. Are we right to let bygones be bygones when the North''s terrorist activities killed innocent civilians? Wednesday is the 13th anniversary of the Korean Air bombing. On Thursday, separated families in South and North Korea will hold reunions. How should Koreans reconcile the two days?
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