The Politics of the Nobel

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The Politics of the Nobel

The Blue House is undoubtedly trying to retain its composure as it awaits the official announcement of this year's Noble Peace Prize winner on October 13. President Kim Dae-jung is heavily favored to win the coveted prize. But the award is causing some consternation among opposition politicians and certain members of the public unhappy with the president's domestic policies.
Norway's largest newspaper, Aftenposten, recently reported that it would venture a 'fair guess' that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee will, in fact, bestow the award on the Mr. Kim for his work toward bringing peace to the divided Korean Peninsula. A veteran reporter in Oslo also said that the committee tends to give the award to those groups and individuals involved in ongoing peace efforts. The reporter, supporting his assertion that the process and not the outcome was a determining factor, noted that past prizes have gone to the peace negotiations in East Timor, Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
It seems unlikely that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would share the prize, although it is customary for two parties to a dispute to do so. It is not without precedent for one individual to take the honor. In 1971, for example, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt became the sole winner of the Peace Prize. The Oslo reporter explained that the committee does not necessarily give equal weight to both parties of a dispute, particularly if one has in the past been branded the leader of a 'rogue state.'
One element in favor of President Kim being accorded this year's prize is the lack of strong field of contenders. United States President Bill Clinton, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Salvation Army are also on the short list of nominees. For a while, there was speculation that the committee might be leaning toward Mr. Clinton as he attempted to broker a peace deal in the Middle East. When those efforts failed, it seriously undermined his chances for a Nobel.
If Mr. Kim wins the prize, it would not just be an honor for him, but would give the nation a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment.
It is no secret that partisan voices believe the award would also give Mr. Kim's and his party a sense of invulnerability. Yet to let such voices mitigate the fact that such a prestigious prize has been accorded Korea's dully elected president would indeed be a tragedy. Regionalism and partisan politics must, in this instance, be set aside.
Nevertheless, a Nobel victory for Mr. Kim would come as sorry news to his detractors, Korea's traditional elite based in Kyongsan Province. Indeed, if Mr. Kim's political adversaries are unable to stomach the thought of an intelligent politician from Cholla Province as president, the prospect of him being the recipient of a Nobel will undoubtedly cause them a great deal of indigestion.
To some extent, negative sentiments regarding Mr. Kim stem from his failure to embrace his opponents and to unite the people. In the eyes of many, the recent inter-Korean contacts were aimed at both winning the Nobel and the next presidential election, rather than at establishing a far-sighted vision for the nation. Koreans question if Mr. Kim has any interest in state administration, other than North Korea as they related to North korean affairs.
Mr. Kim and his party would certainly gain a great deal if he wins the Nobel. Perhaps he might come to believe that ensuring his party's victory in the next election is his only remaining task. A politician''''s longing for power is as natural as a hungry person''''s craving for food. However, the relentless pursuit of power at the expense of national harmony is a different matter altogether.

by Kim Young-hei

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