[EDITORIALS]Storm Over Kim Jong-il's Apology

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[EDITORIALS]Storm Over Kim Jong-il's Apology

With the anticipated return visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in mind, a ruling camp figure has suggested that Mr. Kim is not responsible and does not need to apologize for a series of actions the North has committed toward the South, including the Korean War and the bombing of a Korean Airline plane.

On Tuesday, at a breakfast meeting for National Assembly lawmakers, Hwang Tae-yon, professor of Dongguk University and a deputy director of the Millennium Democratic Party's think tank, asserted that Mr. Kim does not need to apologize for the war and the plane bombing. He said, "Chairman Kim is not a suspect for the crime of invasion because he is not responsible for the Korean War that broke out when he was a child." He also said, "There is no evidence that he orchestrated the KAL bombing, and we cannot investigate the case now." Of course, his tenor can be interpreted as an intention to put aside such a sensitive issue for the time being, given the North-South relationship at this point.

We are worried, however, because his assertion is so alienated from public sentiment. A majority of South Koreans believe that it is desirable for the North to conclude the apology issue to ease the normal development of ties between the two Koreas. That was why the unification minister said the matter would be discussed at the time of Mr. Kim's return visit. Then does it make sense when a pro-government ideologue offers an argument that runs counter to such a position?

Furthermore, his logic may mislead the public because it sounds plausible. When we want to hold a state accountable for past deeds, it is not in the dimension of civil affairs to find out if a person is responsible for a specific case, but to hold the state, representing continuity, responsible. Therefore, the argument that Mr. Kim was too young to be held responsible or we cannot prove his involvement is fallacy.

The ruling party and Mr. Hwang say that he merely expressed his personal opinion, which has nothing to do with the party, but we are suspicious that the party may have floated the idea in preparation for Mr. Kim's visit. Therefore, instead of trying to extricate itself, it is urgent for the ruling camp to announce its definite stance on this issue.
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