[FORUM]Reflection can follow the summit

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[FORUM]Reflection can follow the summit

Pro-North Korea leftists in Korea lost face when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il acknowledged during the North Korea-Japan summit last week that his countrymen had abducted Japanese civilians.

The disclosure that among those kidnapped was Yaeko Taguchi, who had taught Japanese to Kim Hyun-hee, the bomber of Korean Air flight 858 in 1987, must have been a severe blow to the leftists. The existence of Yaeko, or Yi Eun-hye, confirms that the North masterminded the bombing of the Korean airliner.

The leftists have repeatedly sided with the North, insisting that the government's claim that the jetliner was bombed by North Korean agents was a fabrication. Now that the North has admitted to the bombing, their twisted persistence must be an embarrassment.

A Millennium Democratic Party legislator who requested anonymity was once fascinated with the fabrication theory. The lawmaker now has changed his stance and said, "They believed that Kim Jong-il would, at least, hide the existence of Yaeko Taguchi until the end. Since Mr. Kim admitted the kidnapping, the leftists must feel betrayed and defeated."

What most devastated the leftists was Pyeongyang's revised view of history regarding Japan's colonial occupation of Korea. The North followed the same steps taken by former President Park Chung Hee in 1965 when resuming diplomatic ties with Japan.

Earlier, the leftists repeatedly criticized the signing of the amity treaty with Japan as a national humiliation. They shunned the idea that it was an inevitable choice for the sake of economic development. They voiced the hypothesis that the Park administration had sold the national conscience without receiving an apology. They also stated that the North, though poor, had the national legitimacy, claiming that Koreans who had supported the Japanese regime had survived and prospered in the South.

The groundless theories and revisionist history were shattered this time. In its announcement, the North used the term "economic cooperation" rather than "compensation" for remuneration for the Japanese occupation. The apology made by Mr. Koizumi was similar to that of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. The financial assistance to the North is expected to be similar to what the Japanese government gave to the South in 1965, around $7 billion to $10 billion in today's dollar terms.

Many South Koreans were concerned that the government might only focus on economic development, leaving behind the issues of history. This sentiment led many to hope that the North would outstrip sly Japanese diplomacy when demanding an apology and compensation for the occupation.

The leftists did not fail to take advantage of that sentiment. They used it to underestimate the achievements that Korea has made in economic development and democratization, a rare success among countries that became independent after World War II.

Why did Kim Jong-il give in to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi? Mr. Kim vowed in Pyeongyang two years ago that, "North Korea will not sign a diplomatic treaty with Japan at the expense of its pride." However, pride disappeared during negotiations with Prime Minister Koizumi. The relationship between countries is similar to that of humans. North Korea is poor and in need of aid. It is called "rogue state" due to its involvement in terrorism and human rights abuses.

The illegal entry of Kim Jong-il's son into Japan and the discovery of an unidentified North Korean ship on Japanese shores put the North in a weak position. Mr. Kim's concession to Japan seems more like a retreat than a resolute decision. Believing that there was no alternative to the development model made by the late Mr. Park, which the leftists had heavily criticized, could be one reason for concession. Mr. Kim highly praised Mr. Park's Saemaeul, or new community, movement in the early 1970s.

These are the historical lessons from the North Korea-Japan summit. The summit should provide an opportunity to re-evaluate our achievements, history and sense of balance, which the leftists have repeatedly criticized. This would be grounds for us to earnestly help the North in experimenting with capitalism.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Park Bo-gyun

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