[FOUNTAIN]A Sense of Security

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[FOUNTAIN]A Sense of Security

Russian President Vladimir Putin originally dreamed of becoming a pilot. In fact, he once seriously considered entering an aviation university in Saint Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad.

Instead, Mr. Putin joined the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, he said, after watching a spy movie, "Sword and Shield." He said he was impressed to see a single secret agent accomplish a mission that an entire army could not achieve. He also said that he came to understand why people said a sole secret agent determined the fate of thousands. Soon he lost interest in studying aviation. and majored in law, a field that would be advantageous for him to be a KGB agent.

In his youth, Mr. Putin seemed unmatched in courage - maybe too much so. He confessed in his autobiography "First Person" that at the intelligence agency academy he was evaluated as being overly insensitive to risk. For a long time, he tried to address this weak point.

For a secret agent, another critical weakness is insensitivity to security, as dangerous as insensitivity to risk. Mr. Putin was always thorough about respecting security. The exception came when he fell in love with the flight attendant who later became his wife, Lyudmila Putin. One of Mr. Putin's friends told him that he was "crazy" to give his home phone number to Lyudmila only three days after meeting her.

The seamless secret service entourage that accompanied Mr. Putin to Korea in February, and the well-guarded construction of the Russian Embassy in Jeongdong, Seoul, reflect the caution of a leader who once served in an intelligence agency. Even so, Mr. Putin would have admitted defeat after seeing the secretive methods that Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, employed on his Russian visit. The New York Times dubbed the train on which Mr. Kim traveled Russia "The Stealth Express."

European newspapers viewed the situation more critically. A daily Belgium newspaper said the secretive trip polluted the modern image of Russia. A French newspaper wrote that Mr. Kim's trip was reminiscent of a scene from an old movie about Stalin.

An obsession is a persistent preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling. When one becomes obsessed with a thought, the more one tries to do away with it, the more one is enslaved by the idea. Mr. Putin, although he once served in the KGB, was sarcastic about the ideology of the communist party, calling it "a cockroach." We are curious about Mr. Kim's impression of his visit to the grave of Lenin, the leader of communist revolution. It was the first time a foreign leader had visited the site since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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