[INSIGHT]Nuclear talk lost in Iraq debateThe surge of anti-war sentiment here is growing. More and more voices are being heard opposing the dispatch of troops to Iraq. In principle, this is correct; the United States has acted too much alone and the justification for the war is fuzzy at best. Anti-war sentiments also come easily to Koreans because of their fear of war over North Korea’s nuclear program.
But it seems strange to me that there is so much talk opposing a war on the Korean Peninsula but so few voices heard opposing nuclear arms. Those opposing the war in Iraq do so not only because it is without justification and in contempt of international law but also because of the underlying fear that acquiescing to a U.S. attack against Iraq would lead to a U.S. attack on North Korea.
Needless to say, the possibility that the United States would attack North Korea is linked with Pyeongyang’s nuclear programs. North Korean nuclear arms would be a real and clear reason for the war on the Korean Peninsula that we all fear now. If there were no concerns about nuclear arms in the North, there would be no reason to fear war here so much or to be so opposed to the war in Iraq.
So among the voices raised over Iraq, should there not be some raised against nuclear arms? But there is a conspicuous absence of anti-nuclear arms slogans heard on the streets; we hear a lot about anti-war movements and little about calls to ban nuclear weapons. In fact, those who support the dispatch of troops to Iraq are the ones who also rally against nuclear proliferation. In street demonstrations marking the March 1 Independence Movement of 1919, right-wing groups chanted, “No more nukes” and left- wing demonstrators shouted anti-war slogans.
Whether right or left, those opposing war should also oppose nuclear proliferation. During the anti-American rallies sparked by the death of two girls run over by a U.S. military vehicle, the U.S. media commented that there had been no anti-North Korean rallies in the South even when a naval provocation by North Korea left five South Korean sailors dead and a ship sunk.
If South Korea’s right wing and left wing joined their voices to protest North Korea’s nuclear armaments, we would have no reason to be concerned about the future of the U.S.-Korea alliance regardless of whether we sent troops to Iraq. Under those conditions, we would not have to hurry our decision on sending troops because of pressure from the United States, and thus we would have time to form a consensus on the issue before deciding. Should the United States feel that South Korea is too sympathetic toward the North Korean regime or too tolerant of North Korea’s nuclear armaments, its policies on the Korean Peninsula would become even more unilateral.
Another point is that while it is acceptable to speak out against the U.S. attack on Iraq, we should not turn a blind eye to the despotism of the Saddam Hussein government. The present Iraqi government is a cruel, nepotistic government in which all the top government posts are occupied by Saddam Hussein’s family members and which has embezzled enormous amounts of government money. It is wrong and irrational for people to tolerate, sympathize with, and sometimes even praise such a government because of the wrongdoings of the United States. Dictatorship, oppression and nepotism are all evil customs that should be erased from the face of this earth.
While there should be no war in Korea, we should not forget the dictatorship, oppression and tyranny of the Kim Jong-il regime and the miserable conditions in which our North Korean brothers and sisters live. We should pursue talks and cooperation with the North Korean government for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the survival and prosperity of the Korean people as a whole, but it is also our duty to use whatever opportunities we have to improve the living conditions of the North Koreans.
Our society is deeply confused these days. Should we dispatch troops to Iraq or should we not? Is a swift U.S. victory over Iraq a good thing or not? Opinions are divided about our handling of North Korea’s nuclear program, and our country seems to have lost its sense of direction. In the midst of all this, the so-called governing party is divided over the dispatch of troops to Iraq and the president, who should make the final decision on the issue, seems to be wavering himself.
Even though we are sending only noncombat troops to the war, they are soldiers going off to war nevertheless and they should have faith in the cause of the war. There is also no guarantee that they will not suffer casualties. But the president gives the impression that he acknowledges the reasons for opposing the troop dispatch and that he is sending them because he has no choice.
Most of the anti-war forces are also the people who supported the president. If so, why should our soldiers go off to this war? If we take a good look beneath all the confusion, we would see that it is clear what we should support and what we should oppose. We should support peace, democracy and human rights. We should oppose dictatorships, oppression and nepotism. Therefore, to talk anti-war but not anti-nuclear, to oppose the war in Iraq but turn a blind eye to the dictatorship and nepotism of the Iraqi government, are neither just nor proper.
It is time to do some traffic control here. Whether we support the dispatch of our troops or oppose the war in Iraq, the real focus is on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Whichever side you are on, make it clear that you support what should really be supported and oppose what should really be opposed.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok