[OUTLOOK]When Our Head Must Rule Our Heart

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[OUTLOOK]When Our Head Must Rule Our Heart

The people of Jeongseon, Kangwon province rely on their casino and are up in arms over a plan by Hyundai Asan to operate a rival casino on its Mount Kumgang cruise ship. They are planning to burn the North Korean flag and a portrait of Kim Jong-il to mark their protest. But in these days of "sunshine," how dare someone think of burning the portrait of Kim Jong-il and the North Korean flag? Where does the courage come from? Hyundai Asan has so far handed out over $1 billion to North Korea, driving Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Hynix Semiconductor bankrupt. The government has quietly tried to persuade Hyundai Motor to support the North Korea project, but Hyundai Motor has firmly refused to do so. Where does its courage come from? Well, for Hyundai Motor and for the people of Jeongseon, these are matters of survival.

There are two aspects of unification for us. One is unification that our hearts can accept and the other is what our heads will. The division of our people must be overcome. But at the same time, it is necessary to consider what kinds of benefits and comforts unification can bring us. People who say, "Unification above all else," are not the only ones yearning for unification. Others who question how it can be done, and what kind of nation will result, are also patriots and nationalists - but they envision unification with their heads. The present government has been promoting unification by aiming at the heart. But there are people who question whether the unification the government seeks will embrace freedom and democracy, or whether we will end up with socialism or something similar. They are also asking whether unification is what we really need; if we must give everything which we have worked so hard for to North Korea. That is matter for practical consideration with our heads. But these people are now seen as anti-unification and conservative reactionaries.

This is also true in diplomacy. Who from their heart will reject emotional cries for independent diplomacy? But because powerful countries surround us, we have to consider another aspect. For some time, there seem to be a tendency to see people who shout, "Yankee go home!" as intellectuals and nationalists; incidents that involve American forces in Korea tend to be highlighted with unnecessarily sensational headlines in the media. But what would happen to Korea without the United States? As long as Korea remains less powerful than its neighbors, China, Russia and even Japan would simply try to take the United States' place. Then which country would we choose?

Americans are not blind. In Washington D.C. they have already started asking whose side we are on as tensions between the United States and China grow. When they ask this, they also begin to wonder why they spend money and risk lives protecting Korea.

Diplomacy cannot be conducted with aspirations alone. It must follow a cool-headed calculation of national interest. To protect our national interests, we have to be pro-American if we need to be. Whether we should oppose or support the national missile defense system should not be a matter of national pride but a calculation of where our interests lie. We have to decide with our heads, not our hearts. Even in diplomacy, the government has emphasized emotion. Our former foreign minister, who should place national interests first in his thinking, boasted upon retiring that he had rebuffed a request from the United States "because of the pride of our people." Does this country have a brain? Talking from the heart is idealistic and romantic, and has its place. But as people in Jeongseon and at Hyundai Motor demonstrate, it doesn't work when it clashes with reality. Nonetheless the government is forcefully promoting it. This prompts suspicions that the system the government is dreaming of in its heart is different from the one we accept in our heads.


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The writer is the Washington Bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Moon Chang-keuk

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