[OUTLOOK]No need for the South to apologizeA memory was stirred by the recent clash between South Korean conservative groups and North Korean reporters at the Daegu Universiade.
The event occurred in Pyeongyang during talks between the South and North Korean Red Cross Societies in October 1972.
On Oct. 25, the North took South Korean delegates to the Chosun Revolution Museum. The museum, with about 90 rooms and three movie theaters, demonstrated the height of the cult of personality through the idolization of Kim Il-sung and his family.
In addition to the weapons and clothing that Mr. Kim used during his anti-Japan partisan days in Manchuria, the exhibits contained items that glorified the achievements of Mr. Kim’s great-grandfather, Kim Ung-u; his grandfather, Kim Bo-hyon; and his father, Kim Hyong-jik.
Most were written by calligraphic brush or were paintings, and most were copies. And the photographs, which were only a small part of the collection, were heavily altered to emphasize Kim Il-sung.
An incident broke out when Ho Young-jin, a reporter for the Sinailbo newspaper, complained in a loud voice, “Do we really have to see these fabrications?” The North Korean delegates considered that “blasphemy” and protested.
But the real sights were presented the next day. North Korean government-controlled newspapers devoted almost a whole page to reporting on the South Korean Red Cross delegates’ visit to the museum.
But the papers dramatically fabricated statements and gave the impression that South Korean “representatives,” “attendants” and “reporters,” though their real names were not mentioned, were “touched” or “impressed” by the exhibit.
The South Koreans were quoted as saying: “For us, the history of General Kim Il-sung’s fight is the pride of the Korean race,” “Premier Kim Il-sung’s idea was right,” and “The history of Premier Kim Il-sung shines brightly before and after the Liberation.”
South Korean delegates who read these newspapers could not help but be shocked.
Moreover, they were trying to overcome their embarrassment at a caption in the North Korean papers that said “South Korean delegates were moved to tears before the achievements of the great leader,” which was placed under a picture of Lee Bum-seok, the head of the South Korean delegation, who, in the late summer heat, had taken off his glasses and was wiping perspiration from his forehead while visiting Kim Il-sung’s birthplace in Mangeyoungdae.
Mr. Lee quickly sought out his northern counterpart, Kim Tae-hee, strongly protested against the distorted report and demanded an apology and correction.
But the North Korean’s response was: “What are you talking about?” He said, “These papers are read by the North Korean people, not by the South Koreans, so why is the South picking a quarrel over the content?”
He also deflected the protest by saying that the statements at issue were “not wrong at all because they coincide with socialist realism.”
The South Korean asked “What is socialist realism?” And the North Korean explained that “the mission of the media is to report contents that are necessary to educate people in the politically and ideologically correct manner, and to report facts objectively is not always important.”
But at the Daegu Universiade, North Koreans not only picked a quarrel about the behavior of South Korean citizens who exercised their freedom of expression within the lawful limits of the South Korean system, but they also showed a propensity to use violence themselves.
One of the “rules” which has been followed in the interactions between the two Koreas is “to follow the other’s guidance and order in the other’s region.” That means “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Nevertheless, the Roh Moo-hyun administration, far from censuring the North Korean team who followed Pyeongyang’s law in Seoul, blamed and regulated its own citizens.
And the government, from Mr. Roh to the culture and tourism minister and the mayor of Daegu, was intent on “apologizing” to the North Koreans.
This country must be going really wrong. Doesn’t this government have a backbone? We note the fable that an anchovy does not marry an octopus, which has no spine.
* The writer is a former director-general of the South-North Dialogue Office at the Unification Ministry. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Dong-bok