[EDITORIALS]Emotion and national interestPublic anger at the acquittals of two American soldiers involved in the road deaths of two Korean girls has erupted in anti-American demonstrations. The candlelight protests in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, initiated by Internet users, are spreading. Hunger strikes by the religious community continue, and writers, teachers and celebrities are joining the protest wave.
Until recently, anti-American activism belonged only to some radicals and students. Today's actions are a national phenomenon in which middle and high school students, entertainers and housewives are taking part. An appealing slogan urged, "Let's fill up the street of Gwanghwamun with candlelight and put out the U.S. violence with peace."
We have believed that anti-American sentiment and the girls' deaths should be separate issues. The acquittals were based on differences between the U.S. and South Korean justice systems. We worried that approaching the issue emotionally would encourage anti-Americanism and bring demands for withdrawing the U.S. forces here.
Young peoples' awareness today is different from in the past; the two countries must pay attention because it is no temporary phenomenon. Young South Koreans value peace and human rights; they desire fair South Korea-U.S. relations satisfying their dignity. They are easily angered by U.S. arrogance and unilateralism. They see that the United States may be an obstacle to Korean reunification. They believe that relations between Seoul and Washington should be reformed from a Cold War alliance to a reciprocal partnership. They believe that the role and status of the U.S. forces here should be adjusted to reflect this reality. And they share their anger and sadness about their friends' deaths.
We perfectly understand the youngsters' sentiments. But national governance and national interest cannot be secured only with emotion and sentiment. We urge that candlelight protest should be a service for the repose of the two victims. The events should never become violent, but a calm memorial.