Beginning of a Greater Mission

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Beginning of a Greater Mission

President Kim Dae-jung received the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday. As we watched him have the "Peace Medal" hung around his neck, to a standing ovation from an audience of over 1,100, including the king of Norway and envoys from many countries, our hearts were full of deep and complicated feelings.

Just as President Kim stated in his Nobel Lecture, the prize is an honor not only for himself, but for the whole Korean nation. It is compensation, in a way, for the president''s decades of struggle against Korea''s military dictatorship and for the development of human rights in Korea. As a Norwegian poet once wrote, "The drop of water to fall first is the most courageous one." Young people have a lot to learn from the courage, ambition and perseverance of the elderly president.

Even though the prize was given personally to President Kim, it was also given, in a sense, to the Korean nation, because he is the president currently in office. We have complicated feelings about receiving the prize at a time when the nation is facing difficulties on a number of different fronts. We have seen before that a Nobel Prize is not a panacea for domestic politics. Both Lech Walesa and Mikhail Gorbachev are Nobel Peace Prize laureates whose careers ended in failure.

The eventual evaluation of the prize that President Kim has just received will probably depend, to a great extent, on how he fares with domestic issues during his remaining time in office. We hope that he sticks to his belief that the people are the ultimate authority, or as he put it in his Nobel Lecture, "the people are heaven," and carries out extensive political reforms. That will be the only way to drive away the thick cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the country.

Even though no peace effort is free from the danger of failure, the Nobel Committee was faithful to the principle that "nothing can be achieved without trying" in awarding the prize to President Kim. The committee made it clear that the prize was intended to support and encourage the long task of easing tensions and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. We hope that the prize also plants in us a sense of confidence that will take us from the stage of simple sentimental longing for unification to a stage where practical and concrete measures can be implemented to ease tensions and establish peace and stability.

by Bae Myung-bok

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