[INSIGHT]The vicious South-South conflict

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[INSIGHT]The vicious South-South conflict

Politics has never been so murky and confusing. We don't know whom to believe in the ruckus over the alleged draft dodging, or whether all this talk about creating a new party is good or bad. The newspapers aren't helping; they only report what both sides claim without ferreting out the truth. There is only antagonism and distrust. If this chaos continues through the presidential election, the future of the new administration will be grim. With so much political strife, reprisals will abound no matter who wins. In fact, an endless circle of one reprisal bringing another has already begun.

The Kim Dae-jung administration, like all others, has seen both achievements and failures during its five years. Mr. Kim's most distinguished achievements include the recovery from the economic crisis and the North-South Korea summit meeting. His biggest failure, in my opinion, is that he has turned this entire country into a lump of hatred.

A new term, "South-South conflict" -- as opposed to the more traditional "North-South conflict" -- came into being during his administration. Never have regional conflicts been so deep. Class conflict between haves and have-nots has escalated. No South Korean government had ever let public hostility toward the United States, which despite all its faults is still the country that sacrificed thousands of lives to save us and remains our biggest ally, run so amok. Even the media experienced internal contention as never before, newspapers against television broadcasters, big newspapers against small newspapers, conservatives against liberals and so forth.

How did this happen?

In any age, in any society, there is a little bit of hatred and resentment in people's hearts. People discriminate and get discriminated against because they are people. This can be an individual's problem or the product of years of unconscious history. But it does not become a major problem in all societies. Racial tension can exist in any society, in varying degrees, but when racial sentiments are underpinned by power, then tragedy happens. Anti-Semitic feelings had existed in Europe since medieval times. It was when Hitler connected this antagonism to power that terrible things happened. Civilized societies, societies with good sense, know better than to let these hidden sentiments surface in politics.

The biggest mistake the Kim Dae-jung administration made was taking advantage of the feelings that all of us may have in our hearts by connecting them to its power. The administration came to office with nice-sounding ideas such as, "We'll take away all your sorrows for being regionally discriminated against," and "We'll make a society that the have-nots can rule," and turning them into motivations for hatred.

That is how distrust came to rule over the hearts of the people of this country. What are they thinking of when they bring up endless and counterproductive accusations of draft-dodging or the "five mysteries of so-and-so"? They are trying to hold on to power by once again kindling distrust and hatred in people's hearts. This is not about supporting the Grand National Party or the Millennium Democratic Party. No matter which one grabs the presidency in the end, what kind of country and what kind of society will be created if this manifest hatred continues?

We must break this circle of antagonism. Evil begets evil and good begets good: This is not a truth found only in some religion. After World War II, the United States came up with the Marshall Plan to help the reconstruction of Germany. It spent an enormous amount of money to restore post-war Japan. Had there not been this generosity and willingness to forgive enemies, Germany and Japan could very well have turned to the communist side, and much of the world would have changed.

Why is President Kim Dae-jung showing such tolerance to the North but raising tension within the South's society? The president's foremost duty at this moment is to stop the country from further disintegrating. Politicians should immediately stop trying to instigate the people to side against one another for the sake of their election results. If there will only be a chain of reprisals, what good would a hundred elections do? Don't trust those who claim that at all costs you must support their claim on the next administration if you want to survive. They are not saying this for you or for your region; they say it for their own interest.

President Kim claimed that the change of power five years ago was a historic event. He should accept the fact that as power shifted five years ago to the opposition, it could do so again this year. Only such an acceptance can save our politics from going around in a never-ending circle. This could be the last achievement of President Kim before he leaves office.


The writer is a strategic planning executive of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk

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