[EDITORIALS]Division within the SouthThe joint celebration by North and South Korea of the 60th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan ended yesterday, after four days and three nights. The North Korean delegation made many unprecedented gestures, such as paying homage at the National Cemetery and visiting the National Assembly. The celebrations also provided the opportunity for video reunions of separated families, and for opening up the Jeju Strait to North Korean civilian vessels. All of these are firsts since the division of Korea, and we view them positively, in that they can contribute to advancing the inter-Korean relationship.
But the celebration also raised questions that are hard to answer. How to overcome conflicts within South Korea is one such issue. During the festivities, clashes between progressives and conservatives surfaced more than ever. One side cried for the withdrawal of the U.S. military, while the other denounced Kim Jong-il’s dictatorship. Comfort can be taken in the fact that no violence was reported, but such antagonism leaves the real possibility of future incidents.
Self-control, therefore, is urgently needed from both sides. The festival organizers, to begin with, need to change their way of thinking. Since the 2000 inter-Korean summit, these inter-Korean festivals have taken on a life of their own, repeating the chants of national unification again and again. One group, the Pan-national Union of Young Students for National Unification, even had a posting on its Web site praising Kim Jong-il and his late father, founding North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. This can be only viewed as a problem. When such developments leave so many people bewildered and anxious, it cannot be a good thing for the future of inter-Korean exchanges. According to a survey by a television network, 80 percent of the respondents said that we need to be cautious about unification. Unification is not somethng that can be achieved through events, or the growth of a particular faction.
Both the government and the festival organizers need to keep such points in mind, and then make various efforts to earn a broader consensus from more people. The same goes for the conservative camp. A recent poll of South Koreans found North Korea to be second on a list of nations to which they felt friendliest. Our society’s view of North Korea is changing, and a more open attitude is needed.