[VIEWPOINT]Unity is the key to Korea’s futureThe 84th commemoration of the March 1 Independence Movement was the first holiday to be dealt with by the new government. However, our society has long lost the spirit of that noble movement, and is divided by a serious conflict. The conflict arises from the different perspectives people have on North Korea and its nuclear program, a situation that affects not only North-South relations, but the entire international society.
On one hand there is the “anti-American/anti-war” group, calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea. On the other hand there is the “anti-nuclear/anti-Kim Jong-il” faction, opposing the withdrawal of U.S. troops. On a different spectrum, there is the group that thinks a U.S. attack on North Korea under the excuse of preventing Pyeongyang’s nuclear development is the worst thing that could happen. Another group sees the possibility of an attack on the South by the North to be a legitimate fear.
Coverage by the media of the commemoration of the March 1 movement this year expressed concerns over the “first right-left conflict since 1946,” and “serious South-South tensions.” Some scholars have even commented that the internal conflict in South Korea is harder to solve than the North-South issue.
Is national unity on the reunification issue as impossible as the media is making it out to be? As an individual who has been promoting nongovernmental aid to the North over several years and have seen numerous people answer my calls for fund-raising, my answer is a definite no. Even at the moment, the possibility can be felt in the “Help the Children of North Korea 2003 Fund,” co-sponsored by the Korean Welfare Foundation and the JoongAng Ilbo.
The fund-raising, which started late last year, has various civic groups of diverse character participating. For example, the Korea Freedom League and the Rotary Club, two groups generally thought to represent the more conservative part of our society, are participating alongside such groups as the Nanum Munhwa, or the sharing culture of the more progressive camp. Women’s groups such as the YWCA and the Korean Nurses Association, children’s groups such as the Korea Jongie Jupgi Association, volunteer groups such as the Korean Welfare Foundation and functional groups such as the International Fashion Research Institute, are working together and contributing in respective ways in atmospheres that acknowledge the different and individual characteristics of each group.
These groups draw rational decisions together through discussion and debate, trying to keep ideology and political statements out and finding common interests instead. That is how we are able to listen equally to the advice of the association of former residents of North Korea who came to the south during the Korean War, the Korean Veterans Associa-tion on one hand and various liberal and pro-North Korean groups on the other. Although we hold different opinions, we are able to get our tasks done because we have a common interest. Our “codes” may be different, but our source of action is the same. We are not an amalgamation of similar entities, but a force and spirit of unity consisting of different shapes.
Another factor in the North-South relations and in the division of opinion in the South is the illegal money transfers Hyundai made to the North. The incident in which Hyundai sent $500 million to North Korea in order to monopolize joint economic projects was more than just a clash of political opinions. The deal holds enormous potential to shake the foundation of North-South re-lations and the trust of international society. Moreover, it is most unfortunate that just as North Korea’s nuclear program is emerging as a serious international issue and the fear of war looms over the Korean Penin-sula, a political fight is being engaged over whether to conduct a special investigation into this sensitive matter, without any thought of the aftereffects. It is a distressing fact that our politicians, who should be solving the problem and restoring the faith of the people, and the international society, do not seem to realize the essence of the problem and are instead wasting their time with unproductive haggling over less urgent side issues.
The truth must be uncovered. The National Assembly has passed an act providing for a special investigation. Some suggested the president should exercise his veto right, but that will only make matters worse. Now we must show the wisdom of respecting the parliamentary system and the interests of our nation. Let the truth be uncovered through the special investigation, but also let the National Assembly decide to what extent the details of the findings should be made public, and let discretion be exercised over the legal punishments according to what is best for our country.
Our history shows how scholar-bureaucrats of the Joseon Dynasty let the country go awry with political warring over Confucianist theories. Our history, however, also tells us that the determination to solve problems can help Koreans overcome any division.
The spirit of the March 1 movement reminds us of the power that can be generated when a society is united. Koreans want to see their leaders getting together and worrying together over the future of this country.
* The writer is the secretary general of the Korean Welfare Foundation.
by Kim Hyong-suk