[FOUNTAIN]Heirs of two strongmen meet

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[FOUNTAIN]Heirs of two strongmen meet

There is an old Chinese term, "enemies who cannot share the same sky." The original meaning of 'enemies' in this phrase was enemies of one's father, but it now refers to any bitter enemy.

There is no better expression to describe the relationship between former President Park Chung Hee and former North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, now both deceased. From 1961 to 1979, they were bitter enemies and competitors. Mr. Park's enmity is quite understandable; there were at least two North Korean attempts on his life, and Yuk Young-soo, his wife, was killed during one of them.

As time passed, evaluations of both men have changed. New comparative research on Mr. Park and Mr. Kim, the two most influential men of 20th-century Korean history, is being undertaken by historians.

If we focus on inter-Korean relations and the effects that the two made, it can be said that they competed with each other to improve the two Koreas. Although they promoted two different ideologies ?socialism and capitalism ?at the core they were experimenting with ways to bring their people out of poverty. A consensus has emerged, not surprisingly, that the competition ended with a victory for Mr. Park in the 1970s.

Another old proverb says that enemies become alike through their fighting, and there are a lot of similarities between those two men. In October 1972, Mr. Park announced the new Yusin constitution, considered the prime example of his dictatorial tendencies. Two months later, Mr. Kim introduced a similar governing system in North Korea. Similarities can be found in civic development campaigns like the Saemaeul movement here and the Cheollima movement in the North; in ideals like independence and "Juche," or self-reliance; the mobilization of people like reserve forces here and red labor brigades in the North.

Offspring of the two men, Kim Jong-il and Park Geun-hye, met recently, and Kim Jong-il's efforts to boost Ms. Park with promises in improved relations between the two Korea has attracted attention. Mr. Kim's friendly gesture to Ms. Park made the desperate Kim Dae-jung administration's efforts to woo the North look awkward.

But the best reward Ms. Park received was Mr. Kim's kind words about her father and an apology for the incident in which her mother was assassinated.

The photo of the pair in the North is interesting. As if symbolizing the turbulent times of their fathers, waves crash in the painting behind them.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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