[OUTLOOK]Unity through true cooperationNot long ago, a young man asked me, “Reverend Kim, which is more important ― cooperation among Koreans or our cooperation with the United States?” I replied, “Of course, cooperation among Koreans is more important than that with the United States. We often say blood is thicker than water. We should be grateful for what the United States has done for Korea, and it still is a very important and necessary ally. However, if you must compare cooperation among Koreans and that with the United States, I consider the former more important.”
He asked again, “Then why do you advocate anti-Pyongyang, pro-U.S. theories?” I explained to him that I was not against North Korea but against autocracy. Just as I had led the anti-autocracy movement, human rights movement and democratic movement under the military-backed Yusin rule in the 1970s, I now oppose the dictatorship in North Korea, which is far worse than the former authoritarian Yusin regime in the South. If I remain silent about serious human rights violations, the cult of personality and the extreme starvation that are taking place in the North in order to maintain the system of the supreme leader, I will be a sinner as an individual, as a citizen who loves the nation and as a clergyman who is supposed to dedicate oneself to the realization of a righteous society. In my opinion, cooperation among Koreans is more important than any other issue, but when it comes to translating it into action, you must have clear discretion. The fundamental basis of the cooperation among Koreans is aiding the 22 million people in the North. The fundamental basis of inter-Korean cooperation should be helping them live better lives and receive the humane treatment they deserve. We need to also help them recover from starvation. However, if we hold hands with the group that suppresses and jeopardizes the people and is crazy about maintaining and strengthening their power, it is not cooperating with the North but committing a sin against its people. Starvation is a grim enemy to the North Korean people. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” It is a terrible tragedy that more than 3 million North Koreans have starved to death in the last few years. It is the worst catastrophe in the history of Korea. The problem becomes more serious if we look at the reason why so many people had to die of hunger.
When the authorities could have saved the lives of the people, they let them die only because they stubbornly stood by socialist ideologies. In order to protect the outrageously unreasonable system of the supreme leader, the valuable lives of people were sacrificed. The cause of the deaths is not mere starvation. They have been murdered in the name of the system and the supreme leader. In an era of global prosperity, the North Korean regime let millions of people who could be saved, perish. My “New Right” movement colleagues think that collaborating with such a ruthless, irresponsible strongman is not national cooperation but an act of treason. Those who committed such a crime should be brought to a court of Koreans to be judged. They are not partners for negotiation or cooperation. Once again, I want to emphasize that cooperation among Koreans needs to be pursued, but we must be clear with whom to hold hands. By all means, we need to cooperate with the people in the North and collaborate with a legitimate government supported by the people. If there is no such leader in the North, we should do our best to help create a system where the citizens can elect a rightful leader. Therefore, what North Korea needs now is not a nuclear weapon but a reformist leader like Mikhail Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping. The North Korean system needs to be changed, not demolished.
The same principle holds true when it comes to cooperation with the United States as well. Korea is not cooperating with President Bush or the Republican Administration. We are collaborating with a liberal democracy, a market economy, an open-minded global perspective and a government built upon these values.
Former president Kim Dae-jung is reportedly going to visit Pyongyang soon. While some rightists are against the plan, it is not such a bad idea. We should hope that Mr. Kim’s visit to the North can lay a foundation for proper cooperation among Koreans. We need to pray that the unification of Korea is attained peacefully based on true cooperation.
* The writer is a pastor and leader of Doorae Community Movement. Translated by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jin-hong