[FOUNTAIN]Dorasan Station in perspective

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[FOUNTAIN]Dorasan Station in perspective

Four years ago, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Robben Island, 13 kilometers from Cape Town off the coast of South Africa and where a prison that African freedom fighters were imprisoned and suffered severe punishment is located. He was accompanied by then-South African leader Nelson Mandela. The island is most famous as the prison where the anti-apartheid leader spent 18 years - out of a total of 27 years of imprisonment - in a solitary cell until he was released in 1990.

The scene of the two leaders looking through thick iron bars in the cell window, and the dreary atmosphere of the cell, with two blankets and a bucket that was used as a toilet, still linger in our memory. What Mr. Mandela told Mr. Clinton after revisiting the cell touched many people. Mr. Mandela said that it was his moral duty not to abandon those who helped him during his darkest moment. He was referring to Libya, Iran and Cuba, countries that the United States classifies as "nations that support terrorism." Mr. Mandela indicated that the United States, as the more powerful country, could best ease tensions by embracing ?not alienating ?those nations.

President George W. Bush, escorted by President Kim, visited Dorasan train station last Wednesday. Not far from the southern limit of the Demilitarized Zone, Dorasan station is the northernmost station in South Korea. It is part of the Seoul-Sinuiju line and only 14.2 kilometers from Gaeseong. In his speech there President Bush said that the inter-Korean train route could help bring about unificaition. We will never forget watching Mr. Bush write on a railroad tie his hope that the railroad could play a role in unifing the Korean people.

Mr. Mandela, who revisited the island of exile with Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Kim, who stood together with Mr. Bush on the spot of division, both received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The two US leaders similarly created tension by branding countries like North Korea, Iraq, and Iran as sponsors of terror. Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" remark especially roiled Pyeongyang.

After the summit between Mr. Mandela and Mr. Clinton, the South African leader's human rights policy continued to be in the spotlight. But Mr. Kim's Sunshine Policy is controversial. Robben Island was designated as a historical site and became a tourist attraction. Dorasan station, though much different in its historic nature, will also be promoted as a tourist site. It would be nice if Dorasan station becomes a symbol of reconciliation and dialogue.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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