[REPORTER'S DIARY]Don't Let North Use an 'H' Bomb

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]Don't Let North Use an 'H' Bomb

"H National Tourism Organization, H Broadcasting Advertising Corp., H Tourism Association, H Foundation for Women. . . ."

Some 456 people left Sokcho harbor Friday afternoon to make an on-the-spot survey of the Mount Kumgang tourism business in North Korea. Coincidentally, and unusually so, many of the people on the trip worked for companies or belonged to institutions and organizations whose name began with the letter H.

Hanguk, which means Korea, is the first word in the names of many Korean companies, including Korea National Tourism Organization, Korea Broadcasting System, Korea Tourism Association. In all these names, Hanguk was dropped out and replaced with the English letter H for Hanguk.

Kwon Jung-dal, the chairman of the Korea Freedom League, one of Korea's most influential conservative organization, and its officials wore a badge, inscribed with H Freedom League, on their way to visit Mount Kumgang. The list of names of tourists to North Korea and their identification cards also contained titles that started with H. This was also the situation for the list of all Kumgang visitors' names submitted to the Ministry of Unification.

The reason for using H was that North Korea demanded that the word Hanguk not be used in relation to tourists to North Korea. The South Korean government and Hyundai Asan accepted the demand.

A government official said, "North Korea brought up the issue during the first tours to the North in November 1998, and it became a customary procedure." It was inescapable decision at the time when the South had to make a breakthrough in relationships with the North no matter what.

But even after the joint declaration by leaders of the two Koreas on June 15, 2000, there was no change in the situation.

No one dared to speak publicly against the North out of fear of upsetting the regime. Today, it is an open secret.

Switching positions, how would reporters from the North's Korean Central News Agency react if the South issued identification or certificates for visits to the South with "C" instead of Choson, truncating severely the word that refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?

Recently, Hyundai Asan and Korea National Tourism Organization, main operators of Mount Kumgang tourism business, announced a proposal for middle school and high school students to comprise 180,000, or 40 percent, of the estimated 450,000 tourists expected on the tour annually.

If the first thing students encounter during the trip is that they cannot use the name of their own country and instead have to use an English initial, government officials and tourism business officials must rethink what the students would learn. We taught the students that the starting point of real reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South is mutual respect and recognition of each other's political system. I hope the South Korean government will start discussing this issue with the North and correct the problem right away.

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Young-jong

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