[FOUNTAIN]Independence then and nowAt midday on August 15, 1945, a radio broadcast by the Japanese Emperor Hirohito said Japan would surrender. The four-minute-and-10-second broadcast brought Korea’s liberation after 35 years under Japanese colonial rule. Koreans stormed through the streets after the broadcast was over. Yoon Suk-jung, a writer of children’s songs, describes the situation in verse: “On the day of independence/the Taegeuk flags of Korea waved in Seoul./ When those in the prisons/were released in rickshaws and trucks/the bell in Jongno could not cry as it choked with tears.”
Is there a more joyful and emotional day for Koreans than independence day? Even though I am not of the generation that experienced independence, I feel like I can hear the cry of that day.
Independence is often achieved through war. That is not to say every war is for liberation. It would be absurd to say the Korean War was for the liberation of Koreans.
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently defined the war in Iraq as a “war of liberation.” It appears that the designation is true when we watch the broadcasts from CNN or BBC. In those broadcasts, citizens of Basra and the Kurds in Northern Iraq are full of joy that they are now free from the oppression of Saddam Hussein and free from the fear of torture and death.
When I watch those scenes, I feel like I am watching Korea of 58 years ago. The situation in Iraq is similar to that of Korea in that both nations failed to obtain liberation through their own hands and that both are under the control of military administrations. General John Hodge, head of the U.S. Military Government in Korea after liberation, is now Bill Garner or General Tommy Franks in Iraq. The U.S. plan to put Iraq under the control of the Kurds, Sunis and the Shias can be compared with the plan that divided Korea.
I do not think the prospect of what the United States touts as a “Democratic Iraq” is rosy. Whether it is liberation or another goal, the future of Iraq depends on the Iraqi people.
Now is the time for Korea to use the energy consumed in the conflict between those who are against sending troops to Iraq and those who are for it to send humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. Doing so will ease any Arab anti-Korean sentiment created from our joining the United States. I wish God’s blessings for the “liberated” Iraq.
by Yoo Jae-sik
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.