[OUTLOOK]A firm stand against terrorismThe death of Kim Sun-il shocked the whole nation and put everyone through deep sadness and grief. Over the past few days, we have had explosive emotions about the matter, and as a result have failed to notice what a suitable judgment has been made and what a clear position has been taken by President Roh Moo-hyun. The statement that was made by the president to the people on June 23, right after he was notified of Kim Sun-il’s death, has to be highly evaluated both in content and tone.
“Hurting an innocent civilian is unacceptable no matter what the reason is. Terrorism is an anti-human crime. Nothing is to be gained by terrorism. The attempts to achieve goals through terrorism shouldn’t be accepted. We condemn such terrorist acts strongly and make clear our resolve to act firmly against them along with the international community.” These words, which will be long remembered out of many things that have been said by the president have appropriately clarified South Korea’s position and reflect three basic rules.
First, the rule that Korea will not surrender to cowardly terror or threats of terror. This is important because it shows our firm decision that we will not compromise or retreat in the face of terrorism, and also shows our strong pride as Koreans. This statement has made it clear that Korean people can be overly gracious when it comes to those in need who ask for our aid, but that we firmly act against those who underestimate us and threaten us with terrorism or blackmail, with our nation’s pride on the line.
Second, the president cleared the air about what our country thinks of the threats of international terror, which are getting more serious by the day as we enter the 21st century. He confronted the fact that the spread of the anti-human crime of terrorism not only threatens a nation but shakes the whole of human civilization, making it the common enemy of the human race. He promised that Korea would also take part in the international community’s counteractions to terrorism.
Third, he repeatedly stressed that no matter how much friction there is in the international community, we choose never to side with a power that tries to ignore and destroy all existing orders and processes. The world today is overflowing with inequality and unfairness due to big differences in levels of wealth. The truth is that existing international systems and orders are especially advantageous to the stronger countries in all fields such as politics, economics or the military, and disadvantageous to the weaker and poorer countries. However, destroying the orders of today with terrorism does not guarantee a fairer international society. It rather has a bigger chance of bringing about serious confusion and instability. With our country ranking 13th as an economic power, we have chosen to aggressively take part in peaceful reform and adjustments to the international order, and to firmly stand against revolutionary destructive powers, for the sake of our national interest.
The presidential speech on June 23, which calmly highlighted these rules, is fit to receive praise from the Korean people and the international community. The position of the president is a truly lonely one. No matter how much of a panic the whole nation is in, the president is the one who has to calmly and cool-headedly maintain his balance and ultimately take the responsibility of choosing a path for the nation, based on a diagnosis of the country’s safety and interest in the currents of history. President Roh confessed his own emotions by saying, “Even now, when I think of Mr. Kim Sun-il crying out, my heart is torn.” The president himself is probably the only one, however, who knows how much it hurts to decide on the nation’s path transcending such human emotions.
It was probably a difficult decision to reconfirm the plan to dispatch more Korean troops to Iraq, amid such mournful circumstances. The whole nation loves the country and people and longs for peace and justice, but while there are some people who are for the dispatch of troops, there are those who are persistently against it. No other conflict is as painful as the conflicts our society is experiencing, of conscience against conscience and patriotism against patriotism. President Roh’s difficult decision, which was made amid louder voices of opposition to the dispatch after Kim Sun-il’s murder, will play a part in increasing the people’s expectations and trust toward the president.
* The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo
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