[OUTLOOK]Stop catering to the North’s needsSometimes you cannot help how you feel. Your emotion makes you do things that your sense of reason protests. Even if you only have bad memories of your hometown, just the thought of the place can make you sentimental. “Mother” is also a word that evokes nostalgia. Everyone has something that transcends their power to reason. Perhaps the government is similarly emotional towards North Korea beyond rationality.
Even if there is evidence of Pyongyang producing counterfeit dollars, the Korean government wouldn’t want to believe it unless there is more concrete evidence. The National Intelligence Service had even informed the National Assembly of where North Korea printed the counterfeit dollars. Then why is Seoul still skeptical about Pyongyang’s alleged forgery? The government is being considerate to the North. However, embracing such a crime is totally unreasonable. Therefore, the Roh Moo-hyun Administration’s attitude towards North Korea can only be interpreted as one based on emotion. Is this emotion a love towards the same Koreans? If such love is the basis of the unreasonable emotion, the administration should have been more enraged about human rights violations and the miserable conditions of the North Koreans. However, the government does not want to meddle with the human rights issue. Then what makes the government so mellow? I have a feeling that the North Korean regime might have become a kind of hometown in the hearts of many insiders of the Roh Administration. The key figures of the government might share an unreasonable yet inevitable attraction towards the North along with Professor Kang Jeong-koo, who wants to remove the statue of General Douglas MacArthur.
Why do they feel such kinship towards the North? They have all been associated with the North in the past. Some have a family history and therefore have been persecuted during the authoritarian regimes in the South. Even after having overcome the past and come into power, they have not yet gotten over their sense of persecution. Also, some might have received a misguided education when they were young. Their admiration for communism has been replaced with adoration for North Korea. They must have lamented over the collapse of the Soviet Union. They will not listen no matter how hard we explain that communism cannot make the country happy or prosperous and how miserable life is in the North. They have been educated to be politically oriented towards communism.
If embracing North Korea is not just an emotional issue, there must be other realistic reasons. The government might be in a position where they cannot criticize the North. The Roh Administration might be dreaming of reversing their fortunes with a North Korea breakthrough. With an approval rating under 20 percent, the ruling party cannot win either the regional elections or the presidential election. There must be a hidden intention behind former president Kim Dae-jung’s proposal of forming a federation with the North and planning to visit the North. If the ruling party wants to reverse the situation with a surprise, it is a very dangerous experiment. While citizens’ attitudes are still unknown, the government may dare to hold a summit meeting or try to establish a federation. If the ruling party were to make such a move, it needs the North’s cooperation, and therefore, knowing Pyongyang’s faults, the government cannot publicly condemn it as evil.
The intention behind the generous assistance to the North is also suspicious. When the government is questioned why it is so reserved in relations with the North, they argue that provoking Pyongyang might lead to a war. Such reasoning is self-contradictory since the government has announced that North Korea’s national strength is only one thirtieth that of the South’s and said there will be no war in the Korean Peninsula. Also, the government rebukes those concerned about the North Korean threat as “Cold War minded.”
What can we do about the pro-Pyongyang feeling in their hearts? The emotion is a legacy of history, and we can only hope that this unreasonable affection is cured soon. The government has to have a mindset to understand Pyongyang as an object of reason, not emotion. It took a century for the United States to get over the aftermath of its Civil War. It could take 100 years for Koreans to wash away the feeling of ours.
The problem is the fate of the country when those with pro-Pyongyang sentimentality are leading the nation. Let’s look at the Private School Law. While the nominal justification is to put a few outside figures in the private school foundations, the essence is a contest to take the initiative in education. In other words, the law aims to hand educational leadership to the teachers’ union. It is generally known that the teachers’ union has a pro-North, leftist tendency. After all, the Private School Law and the counterfeit dollar issue are all connected at the roots. The citizens feel that something is wrong but must follow the leadership of the government. Holding political power means taking a big responsibility for the citizens. Three years into its term, the Roh administration has to wrap things up in the remaining two years. It must keep in mind that sunlight gets hotter in the later part of the day.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk