[FOUNTAIN]Use the term ‘Taliban’ very carefully“Taliban” means “students” or “seekers” in the Urdu language. Here, “student” refers to those who learn the precepts of Islamic fundamentalism at religious boarding schools. The schools’ graduates share a strong sense of ideology, organization and solidarity. They boast a solid network, capable of mobilizing a large group quickly.
These “students” began to acquire political and military significance when Mohammed Omar formed an anti-Soviet resistance group with the Taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Taliban staged an armed uprising against the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan and successfully removed President Burhanuddin Rabbani from power in 1996. The Taliban dominated 95 percent of Afghanistan and became the governing power.
But internationally the Taliban have not created a friendly impression. Especially after the group’s link to Osama bin Laden was confirmed, its reputation has been associated with an international terror group defined by strong anti-Americanism.
In fact, some scholars and officials in Washington branded anti-American regimes and activists as “Taliban” after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Some in Washington even called the diplomatic lineup in the Roh administration “Taliban” after having disagreements on policy toward North Korea.
In Korea, Chun Jung-bae and Shin Ki-nam, core members of the Our Open Party, have been called Taliban among politicians. Recently, the term brought more turmoil as some diplomatic officials called the main members of the National Security Council the Taliban.
Their perspective toward the United States might be different from the traditional viewpoint. Since the National Security Council members are the ones trying to reform the existing political climate and bureaucratic tradition in Korea, they might collide with other officials. But historically and ideologically, they have nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism. So it would be problematic to call them Taliban.
The Republic of Korea believes in freedom, democracy and capitalism and denounces terrorism. Associating Korea with Taliban in any way is an insult to the entire citizenry as well as harmful to the national interest. Using the irrelevant and vicious term will only bring unnecessary suspicion to Korean society.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.