&#91OUTLOOK&#93In a nuclear age, anxiety expands

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&#91OUTLOOK&#93In a nuclear age, anxiety expands

We are living in an age of anxiety. Neither any society nor anyone can live completely free from anxiety. But it is not always easy to diagnose the cause of anxiety. An anxiety may originate in internal factors like the loss of self-confidence, either in individuals or in countries. And anxiety can expand when pressured by unbearable external factors. Once ignited, anxiety is inclined to rapidly infect others and to progress in strength geometrically.
The anxiety about the world these days, diffusing rapidly following the war in Iraq and the North Korean nuclear crisis, is directly connected in the end with individual anxieties over the fate and status of one’s own country.
The biggest cause of most of the anxiety today is that the United States, which won the Cold War and became the center of international order, has been shrouded by extreme uneasiness after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Though it is the most powerful nation in history, after being left helpless by Sept. 11 the United States wound up in severe shock.
It is true that the new reality, in which military supremacy cannot guarantee national security, made the United States uneasy and embarrassed. The sense of isolation that the United States alone experiences, the crisis awareness based on the threats it faces and not feeling supported by other countries, make the United States uneasy and forces the country to assume unilateral policies in the face of threats.
As Dominique Moizy, the French diplomatic expert said, there are conspicuous differences in understanding the present situation between the United States and other nations. He said this as the United States charged into a war while the rest of the world, including much of Europe, retained a peaceful stance. As Steven Fiddler has analyzed, Sept. 11 was an incident that changed how the United States viewed the rest of the world, and at the same time changed how the United States is viewed by the rest of the world. The sense of isolation the United States must feel from the rest of the world surely grows deeper as the war in Iraq goes on.
Unlike the United States, the anxiety that European nations and Japan feel now is based on the sense of crisis that they may be pushed away from the center stage of world history. The discrepancies in politics, economy, military and technology, in particular with the United States, are getting wider.
The anxiety that the outcome of the Iraq war may make the discrepancies much wider lingers in the minds of leaders of European nations like France and Germany. Meanwhile, Japan is worried that her longtime dream -- to become a political power that stands right along with its No. 2 ranking in economic power in the world -- may be much harder to attain.
Unlike in the so-called advanced countries, the anxiety of North Korea originates in the alienation from the times, which the North Korean regime brought on itself.
The end of the Cold War and the opening of the information society generalized exchanges as the core strategy of this nation’s survival in market globalization. But because North Korea is not easy to enter due to its regime character, North Korea is forced to be afflicted with anxieties as it faces a crossroads of economic recession resulting from isolation and regime survival.
That China and Vietnam, two of the three communist nations in Asia, have taken brave steps to participate in development through the market economy might have made North Korea feel more isolated.
Such feelings of isolation and hopelessness may lead to a sense of crisis over the survival of the regime itself. As a matter of fact, various anxieties lie beneath the growing tensions between the United States and North Korea.
South Korea is not an exception from these anxieties. Though our anxiety basically arises from geopolitical vulnerability, the loss of self-confidence with which we will overcome difficulties with aggregate will of the nation may be a direct cause.
Freedom or reunification. Which has priority? Are we willing to pay the price for protecting freedom? How will we institutionalize democracy after applying it? Will we put national goals on developing and strengthening national power as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or will we pose ourselves as a leader of the third world?
If we don’t have any consensus on these series of choices, but are split over them more seriously as time goes, our future will bring even more anxiety.

* The writer is adviser of the JoongAng Ilbo and former prime minister.

by Lee Hong-koo
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