[VIEWPOINT]An unhappy 12th anniversaryTwelve years have passed since South Korea and China settled old grudges that came from the yoke of the Cold War and the Korean War and laid the cornerstone for the future. Based on their geographical proximity, cultural similarities and economic complementarity, and capitalizing wisely on the thaw in international politics surrounding the Korean Peninsula, South Korea and China set up bilateral diplomatic relations. At this time last year, people acquainted with China who said they were pro-Chinese would have covered newspaper sections with their arguments for the historical necessity of bilateral diplomatic relations and boasted of achievements in this respect. But all kinds of well-wishing remarks about relations with China have disappeared today.
This has largely to do with the distortion of Goguryeo history recently committed by China. It is heart-rending to think of the lamentations of our ancestors who might be watching thousands of years of our history be insulted by China, once thought to be our companion in opening the age of Northeast Asia together. Meanwhile, a researcher of the Overseas Economic Research Institute of Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences, a Chinese government think-tank, announced a study that severely criticized North Korea’s hereditary politics and political persecution. Such a series of events awakens us to the reality that there is no permanent friend or enemy in the international community. Seeking strategically stable relations with the United States, against which it fought bloodily in the Korean War, China is harshly criticizing North Korea, a blood brother who now hinders its plans. This grim reality of international politics and national egotism makes us shudder.
In this stark reality, arn’t such words as pro-Chinese, post-Ame-rican, ally or alliance the result of empty armchair arguments? Didn’t we fail to foresee if not intentionally ignore the emergence of Chinese hegemonism as we were facinated by its emphasis on economic development? Also, what a futile attachment it would be to re-emphasize the South Korea-United States alliance, seizing the opportunity to temporarily adjust the relations between South Korea and China? Now no one should distort or mislead our reality with foolish questions about pro-Chinese and post-American plans, which have lost their usefulness. The grim reality requires us to be equipped with the wisdom to use China and the United States.
Korean politicians should ruminate over modern history where the Qing Dynasty tried to maintain its influence on the Korean Peninsula through a book titled “Joseon Strata-gem” when it was declining due to the Western invasions. They should learn lessons from history that the division of national capability between liberal and conservative forces amid the raging waves of the Western forces’ advance into the East provided the first step for our sovereignty to be trampled by Japanese imperialism. In addition, today’s politicians should face the fact that politicians at that time followed the path of ardent patriotism searching for the future direction of the dynasty in their own way.
China must solve the problem of inequalities between rural and urban sectprs, between the coast and inland and between classes, arising from rapid economic growth and subsequent disturbances among ethnic minority groups. How would China be able to endure the disgrace to its pride as a big power, if its so-called historical “Conquest of Northeast Asia” is exposed to be nothing but a deceptive ploy to complete the “Joseon Stratagem” written 120 years ago? Chinese intellectuals, on this joyful day of the 12th anniversary of South Korea-China diplomatic relations, are you going to leave the distortions of history and the shadow of your fabrications and distortions, which will bring disgrace to China and Chinese history in the long run? If South Korea and China cannot reach a consensus that what they achieved in economic exchanges recently is the result of long historical and cultural exchanges between them, the two countries’ future will be dark and gloomy.
Considering the potential of bilateral exchanges, the problems of history between South Korea and China will be resolved sooner or later like iron melting in the furnace. Celebrating the 12th anniversary, both countries should recall the significance of their diplomatic relations and achievements and pursue the wisdom of cooperation and coexistence to lay the framework of opening the “era of Northeast Asia.”
* The writer is an adjunct professor of the Chinese language at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Byung-in