[OUTLOOK]What's in a word? Just ask North

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[OUTLOOK]What's in a word? Just ask North

The April visit by Lim Dong-won, special presidential envoy to Pyeongyang, provided a breakthrough for the stalled inter-Korean relations as well as for U.S.-North Korea relations.

Mr. Lim's visit to Seoul's northern neighbor revived pending issues between the two Koreas, including the reunion of separated families.

Additionally, the planned visit of U.S. special envoy to North Korea, Jack Pritchard, was helped immensely by Mr. Lim's visit, and should help to thaw U.S.-North Korean relations.

However, Mr. Lim's visit once again brought up the controversy of referring to North Korea as the "enemy."

According to reports in the local press, the Korean government and Mr. Lim have requested the Ministry of National Defense to remove from its white paper to be published later this month the word "enemy" when referring to North Korea.

The government believes that doing so will help turn a corner in establishing military trust between the two countries.

The government and Mr. Lim argue that the word that identifies North Korea as an enemy is not globally used. Hence, if we continue to use such an expression it may damage the reconciliation mood between North Korea and South Korea.

The government's argument is that it is not necessary to use the word, which was not used before 1994, especially since inter-Korean relations have vastly improved.

The argument is sufficiently convincing. However, the argument against it is also strong. The word in the white paper reflects the awareness of an honest threat by North Korea.

If we distort the truth, that would be the same as denying the fact that our country's security could be threatened.

It has been noted with concern that North Korea refers to its southern neighbor as a "foe," "target" and "puppet."

Thus, erasing or changing the term "enemy" when referring to North Korea would be the same thing as disarming only one side.

A military expert said that calling North Korea an enemy in a white paper on national defense should be a military decision.

The expert said it would be a dangerous concept to turn a military issue into a political one if the military were to look into the matter under political purposes.

The debate over the expression would most likely give an impression to the North of a self-imposed split in the South.

Such an argument, however, is an advisable condition in regard to the evaluation and recognition of the threatened security in the region.

The recognition of an outside threat, and the evaluation of it, is not only exclusive to the national defense.

On the contrary, such a debate might bring an agreement of the people so that a stronger national security foundation could be established. The problem is that the base of the argument lies in ideological exclusion.

The argument is not about theories about the character of the word "enemy" or strategic countermeasures, but rather on the technical debate of the word itself.

The government does not want the content of important issues in the white paper on national defense to change. The government simply wants to leave the word "enemy" out, or to change it when referring to North Korea.

The argument to delete the word "enemy" when referring to North Korea because it may be a threat to the existence of our nation and the military is illogical.

At the same time, the word cannot be deleted or altered one-sidedly while the debate has enlarged as it has now.

Regardless of the genuine intention, unnecessary doubt will only continue the feud within South Korea and may worsen inter-Korean relations.

Therefore, it is necessary that an alternative should be sought in order to relieve the confrontation over who is right and who is wrong.

For the 2002 white paper on the national defense, let's leave in the word "enemy" when referring to North Korea as a threat.

But an explanation of the word "enemy" when referring to North Korea in terms of relieving tension between the two countries, peace settlement and regulating armaments should be made.

Military meetings between North and South Korea should be held to discuss security threats, and evaluations should then be established.

At that point, South Korea should ask its counterparts about how to officially change the word, and what, if any word or words, should be there.

It would be ideal to gain cooperation with North Korea and promote reconciliation within South Korea in such a way.


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The writer is a professor of political science at Yonsei University.

by Moon Chung-in

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