[GLOBAL EYE]Nation, not race, is importantI had believed that loving my country and loving my people were the same. I had believed that thinking and acting for my people would directly benefit the country as well. The love for the Korean people, whe-ther North or South, is firmly imp-lanted in the minds of Koreans. However, I am worried these days that we might ruin the future of the nation if we hold on too long to this concept.
The old controversy over abolishing the National Security Law is likely to come to an end this time. The conclusion reflects the newly found confidence of Korean society, but it leaves a bitter impression that Pyeongyang obstinately takes issue with the law.
Also, the proposed investigation into the past is shaking political circles as if it is one of the inevitabilities of history. It might seem that we can finally afford to do the decade-old homework we have postponed. However, considering the quality of the discussion and the hastiness involved in pushing it forward, it is doubtful whether this is actually for the good of the nation.
As we watch how the situation unfolds, it looks more like an ideological dispute than a patriotic task. North Korea has pursued an ideology we can never tolerate, and we had to go to war with fellow Koreans.
The other member of the Korean Peninsula is still dangerous and must be treated carefully, but just because they are Koreans, we have been entangled in a consuming affair that has little to do with South Korea’s own interests. Even the matters that can be resolved calmly are approached too politically. The discussion is constructive, but the price we have to pay is much too high.
It’s already been a decade. Ten years ago, a South Korean president declared in his inauguration speech that he would make the Korean people a priority over the alliance. The message, directed at Pyeongyang and Washington without much consideration for the consequences, backfired only a few days later as the North Korean nuclear threat elevated and the Korea-U.S. alliance began drifting. Without realizing the solemn reality that the mystical appeal of the “Koreans” could be a burden in pursuing the national interest, we are still dreaming of cooperation with the North. If they were not our people, we wouldn’t be so generous as to accept all those North Korean defectors.
Then why are we upset that the United States has enacted the North Korean human rights act, which is for the improvement of the human rights situation there? Are we ashamed that Washington made the first move in the task we ought to be doing? Or is it because the U.S. action runs counter to Seoul’s policy to embrace the North?
If the South Korean government upheld a principle to separate the North Korean regime and its people in its North Korean policy, it is only natural to distinguish the resolution of the nuclear threat from the defector issue. Then how can we explain the government’s nervous attitude, fearing that accepting defectors from the North might deter the resolution of the nuclear issue?
Should we still look at North Korea with love for the people, not with love for the country, even if it doesn’t give up on its nuclear weapons program, while proclaiming its struggle against foreign powers? Even though we accept North Korea’s claim that the nuclear weapons are not aimed at us, the mere existence of the nuclear weapons greatly hurts North Korea’s stance in the international community.
There are only a few countries in the world that are obsessed with seeking its own identity, and they are all in decline. Even though we might be an exception, we must accept the fact that we do not necessarily deserve to be recognized for our racial homogeneity. If love for the people translates into a love for the country, it would be more than desirable. But the reality is not that simple.
It makes no sense to claim that a different set of rules should be applied to North Korea because it’s our brother. Let’s put the obsession with race aside for now. If North Korea doesn’t represent the hope for the future of Korea, or is a burden for Koreans, it’s time to stop the self-destructive obsession with Korean blood. For now, let’s put love for the country before love for the people.
* The writer is an editorial writer and director of the JoongAng Ilbo’s Research Institute of Unification Culture.
by Kil Jeong-woo