[OUTLOOK]Preventing a senseless sacrificeOn Wednesday at dawn, the country woke up to the shocking news that Kim Sun-il was beheaded in Iraq by an armed Islamic militant group that had kidnapped him. Mr. Kim’s death was a cruel and inhumane atrocity that cannot be justified in any way. Mr. Kim was a good-willed student who had always held an interest in the Middle East, and he had gone to work in Iraq to earn his tuition to study Arabic in graduate school.
The mission of the Korean troops stationed or to be stationed in Iraq is to restore peace, not fight with militant groups. Korea has helped the Iraqi people through various construction projects in the past. The Iraqis know this better than anyone. Mr. Kim’s kidnappers purportedly beheaded him because Korea had sent medical and engineering military units to Iraq and plans to send more troops.
The kidnappers demanded conditions from the Korean government, such as the withdrawal of Korean troops from Iraq, that they knew very well could not be accepted. This shows that the kidnappers never meant to negotiate, and that their intention from the beginning was to display their power to commit acts of barbarity. As long as such terrorist groups exist, similar tragedies as Mr. Kim’s death will occur repeatedly.
With this unfortunate event, it seems that our society and political community will again fall into a fierce debate over the dispatch of our troops to Iraq. President Roh Moo-hyun held a special press meeting on Wednesday to denounce the barbaric act and affirm his determination to fight terrorism together with the international community. The domestic political community must respect the president’s will to dispatch more troops to Iraq. We must prevent national opinion from fracturing over the issue. Such strife would not only damage our credibility in the international community, but it would also undermine the government’s leadership necessary for establishing peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
The whole world is presently engaged in a war against terrorism. The focus of the war is now in restoring peace and rebuilding a stable state in Iraq. Even if the war is being carried out under the unilateral leadership of the United States, all the major countries of the world are participating in this war directly or indirectly in cooperation with the U.S. initiative. There is no other country that can bear the burden of the United States in its place in the war against terrorism, counter-proliferation efforts and maintenance of international security. Without the central role of the United States, international organizations such as the United Nations could not function effectively or efficiently. This is the reality today.
Chaos in the world order would mean instability in the Northeast Asian region and the augmentation of tension on the Korean Peninsula. It would, in short, be a threat to our own security. This problem must be solved with the help of the entire international community as well as the regional powers. The Korean Peninsula issue is no longer an inter-Korean affair, it is an international issue. That is why we need to open our eyes and see the bigger picture beyond the peninsula.
International efforts to restore peace and stability in Iraq will take on a new vigor when sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people on Wednesday. Now that the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are also expected to send troops to Iraq, the atrocious behavior of militant groups is expected to abate.
We must not let Kim Sun-il’s death become a senseless sacrifice. His death was a patriotic sacrifice made for the sake of Korea and the Korean people in their war against terrorism and barbarity. His sacrifice must be used to bring peace and prosperity to Iraq and ultimately the Korea Peninsula.
* The writer, a former vice minister of national defense, is a professor at Hallym University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Yong-ok