[FOUNTAIN]Nuclear arms and romantic daydreams

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[FOUNTAIN]Nuclear arms and romantic daydreams

In June 1975, President Park Chung Hee said in an interview with the Washington Post that South Korea would do everything necessary to defend itself if the United States withdrew its nuclear umbrella.
The Blue House had already invited a Korean-American nuclear scientist to come back here, and Seoul’s move elevated tensions with Washington over Mr. Park’s determination to become a nuclear power.
Then in June 1977, 42-year-old Benjamin W. Lee was killed in an automobile accident in Illinois. Widely considered as one of the most prominent theoretical physicists of his time, Dr. Lee went to the United States to study physics and was offered a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania at age 28. When the news of his death was learned, rumors that Washington’s intelligence agencies were trying to stop Korea’s nuclear development spread in Korea.
If only Dr. Lee had survived the accident, he could have changed the fate of the Korean Peninsula, many thought.
The wishful thinking exploded in 1993 when the writer Kim Jin-myung revived Dr. Lee in his book, “Mugunghwa Flowers Have Blossomed.”
Lee Yong-hu, Dr. Lee’s character in the novel, provides the basis for a joint nuclear project of the two Koreas. The nuclear weapons developed by Korea proves to be powerful enough to deter the collaborative invasion of the United States and Japan.
Mr. Kim combined a provocative theme of a U.S. and Japanese attack on Korea with the sentimental idea of joint nuclear weapons development by the two Koreas. The sentiment is still around, transformed into the so-called “nuclear romanticism” that the North’s nuclear weapons are ultimately ours as well.
Today, all nuclear research and activities should be reported to and scrutinized by the International Atomic Energy Agency. If we cheated, our sovereign credit rating would nosedive and the country would suffer. We have to keep in mind that even Libya, an oil producer, gave up nuclear development. We might celebrate the production of 0.2 grams of enriched uranium as a technological advance, but the problem is that the international community suspects our motives. Just as a romantic dream is never a reality, “nuclear romanticism” does not help.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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