[FOUNTAIN]Why slight an old friend?Korea's establishment of diplomatic ties with China came 10 years ago this year. Despite several obstacles, Sino-Korea relations have advanced in quality and in quantity during the last decade.
I hope Korea and China further develop their friendship, leaving historical enmities and conflicts in the past. But Koreans have to remember that the new relationship came at the cost of forsaking an old friend, Taiwan.
In August 1992, Korea ended diplomatic ties with Taiwan in a rather coarse way. The times called for Korea to join hands with China, but the way Korea sacrificed its relations with Taiwan for that purpose was unsophisticated and unpleasant, especially in view of the special ties that had bound Korea and Taiwan in history.
The harsh severance of ties immediately triggered anti-Korean sentiment on Taiwan. Things were not improved until Korean rescue teams worked devotedly to help Taiwanese in the wake of a large earthquake in September 1999.
Thanks to the efforts of both Korea and Taiwan, Taiwan has become Korea's fifth-largest trading partner and direct air routes between the two countries were reinstated this year.
China-Korea relations also have deepened during the last 10 years. That does not mean that there have not been sources of conflict -- North Korean defectors, China's treatment of ethnic Koreans and the yellow sand that blows across from China, to name a few -- but overall, China has become a new partner of Korea in the global society.
Last week, Chinese police intruded into the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang to drag out North Korean asylum-seekers, triggering new tensions among China, Korea and Japan.
Meanwhile, another diplomatically sensitive issue arose between Korean and Taiwan: Wu Shu-chen, wife of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, canceled her scheduled unofficial visit to Korea.
The lukewarm attitude of Korean officials, who had no special reason to embrace the visit, was the main reason behind the cancellation, experts said, and some added that Korea cannot ignore the difference in national strength between China and Taiwan.
But that theory is the equivalent of saying that might makes right. That Korean diplomacy seems narrow and outdated. Shouldn't Korea be more open, especially to a country that helped us greatly in the course of our struggle to regain independence from Japanese colonial rule? I cannot but help feeling sorry for our Taiwanese friends, who must have been disappointed at Ms. Wu's aborted visit to Korea.
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.
by Kim Seok-hwan