[GLOBAL EYE]Aspects of South’s ‘mental illness’The six-party dialogue on North Korea’s nuclear program, the death of Hyundai Asan chairman Chung Mong-hun, the drifting Mount Geumgang tourism operation, and the violent Hanchongryun demonstrations have stirred the nation, and all these boil down to the existence of North Korea. Watching controversies created by them, I am worried that the schizophrenia of our society is worsening.
First, the six-nation dialogue reveals how Pyeong-yang’s nuclear program is no longer an issue for the Korean Peninsula alone. There are worried voices who claim that the increasing outside influence might sway the destiny of the nation.
They should ask Pyeongyang to be accountable for this rising concern, because Pyeongyang is the one that advocated national cooperation on one hand but brought foreign powers into the matter by pursuing a nuclear program on the other hand. The group that focuses on foreign intervention mostly coincides with the one that is demanding South Korea’s leadership role in the talks.
We need to seriously consider what role South Korea can afford to play in the North Korean nuclear issue. The process by which the six-way talks were decided implies the answer. The multilateral nature of the proposed talks reveals that the nuclear issue is no longer just a headache for the Korea Peninsula, and it cannot be resolved by the two Koreas alone. South Korean officials are already feeling powerless on the international stage; why mention an unattainable leadership role to already suffering officials?
The six-party meeting is unprecedented, and while each nation will bring its own strategic planning to the discussions, the talks will flow according to the dynamics of the meeting itself. We can rest assured that no other nation supports Pyeongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons. The partners will be involved in all future discussions on the Korean Peninsula, and it would be best to ask our government officials to learn as much as possible from this Beijing dialogue.
Second, if it weren’t for the death of Mr. Chung, it is doubtful that citizens, politicians and businessmen would be making such fuss about the Mount Geumgang tourism operation. Anyone who was interested in the project should have predicted that a discussion on whether to continue the unprofitable tourism operation would be unavoidable sooner or later. The belated clamor fueled by the tragic fate of Mr. Chung only shows how the rest of the country had been uninterested in the North Korean project.
The turmoil is a result of the collaboration of indifferent citizens, an incompetent business concern and an unconcerned government. But it is Pyeongyang that created the trouble in the first place. Ignorant of the outside world and having enjoyed giving trouble to its brothers in the South, Pyeongyang is fundamentally accountable for creating the fiasco.
The government is busy seeking a solution, but we should not let a rough-and-ready prescription hastily end the discussion. If the solution requires a continuous infusion of taxpayers’ money, the government must ask for the consent of the citizens. The complex situation will not improve unless Pyeongyang, which has gained substantially from inter-Korean cooperation, shows some change of attitude.
A stop-gap measure only to avoid the impending crisis will be as good as killing Mr. Chung again. We at least need to prove to the North that South Korea is a democratic society where a project that failed to win public support cannot be continued. We need to take enough time, at least until the South is completely familiar with Pyeong-yang’s strategy for the Beijing meeting, and reach an internal agreement through discussion. No one will oppose a conclusion reached among businessmen, government officials, politicians and specialists. The prescription must reflect public opinion, which changes according to the situation.
Finally, Hanchongryun dug its own grave with its rash and thoughtless behavior. I want to ask them if the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country will immediately bring peace to the peninsula, and if they are ready to become one with the North at any time just because we are all Koreans.
Most of all, the student group needs to answer whether it thinks South Korea can afford to bring the two countries together in financial and security terms. The outlawed student dissidents’ demonstrations have aggravated national divisions. The violent behavior is a sectional portrait of our society with spreading self-destructive imprudence.
The delusion of persecution of those who cry for a leadership role in the six-nation talks and criticize foreign intervention, the showy national consciousness of the people who are obsessed with North Korean projects even though they know very well that the projects are unprofitable without Pyeong-yang’s change of attitude, and the self-destructive theory of those who demand that the U.S. military leave the country when the country is not prepared for the realignment of allied forces, these are the mental illnesses that Korean society is suffering from at the moment.
* The writer is an editorial writer and director of the Unification Research Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kil Jeong-woo