[FOUNTAIN]Intolerance reigns among overseas kinOn May 10, two North Korean diplomats entered the Korean American Federation in Los Angeles, escorted by State Department officials and police. With the special protection of the U.S. government, Jo Kil-hong and Pak Pu-ung of the North Korean mission at the United Nations were visiting Los Angeles to accept a donation from the Korean-American community for victims of the Yongcheon train explosion in April.
Over 30 policemen and State Department officials appeared on site to guard the North Korean dignitaries, because some conservative groups had staged a violent protest there. War veterans jeered and sprayed water at the North Koreans and damaged the diplomats’ vehicles.
According to Korean newspapers published in the United States and other overseas Korean media, Mr. Jo said he did not know that the Korean community in Los Angeles was still so conservative despite the progress in the dialogue between the two Koreas. Mr. Pak said it was a crooked political assumption that the donation to North Korea would be used for weapons development. As he left Los Angeles, he reportedly promised to send a confirmation that the donation had been reported to the North Korean Red Cross and delivered to the victims in Yongcheon.
I am not saying that we should deliberately ignore the authoritarian order and anti-humanitarian conditions in North Korea. But Pyeongyang has changed its attitude by immediately acknowledging the disaster and asking for the help of fellow Koreans and the international community.
Democratic nations believing in liberty and democracy can outdo the communist despotic rule because democracy cares about human rights and tolerance. Criticizing human rights conditions and autocracy in North Korea and aiding the victims of the explosion might sound contradictory, but they can coexist.
Did we really need all the jeering, spraying of water and protesting when the goodwill donation was handed over to help the victims of the catastrophic train explosion? It is regrettable that rifts, confrontation, intolerance and narrow-mindedness continue to exist in some parts of the overseas Korean community, which could be more tolerant toward the ideological confrontation because it is far away from the Korean Peninsula.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.