[OUTLOOK]A new generation is waitingThe ruling and opposition parties clashed over remarks President Roh Moo-hyun made last week during his visit to Mongolia, where he said Korea is ready to make large concessions to North Korea.
Meanwhile, Seoul National University’s student union announced it had decided to withdraw from the pro-North Korean student body Hanchongryon and that it would separate itself from all political actions.
This is a good example that shows how far apart are the sentiment’s of Mount Bukak, where the Blue House is located, and Mount Gwanak, home to Seoul National University.
However, this is not just a simple difference in point of view. If Mr. Roh’s comments symbolize the last scene of a passing stage in Korea’s contemporary history, the announcement by Seoul National University’s student body marks the first scene of Korea’s upcoming stage.
Those who fail to realize the fact that the previous scene has ended will find themselves with no role in the future.
The six-party talks to resolve North Korea’s nuclear program ended with a joint statement in Beijing in September after a painful process. The promise of words, however, are still hanging in the air, waiting to be moved into action. This is not surprising.
The scene for the joint statement presented a mingled setting as the dialogue and performance of the Cold War, the post-Cold War and the transitional disorder were all mixed together.
In order to protect its regime, North Korea is showing a firm determination to stick to the Cold War ideology and is willing to use a nuclear arsenal as a last resort.
The United States, however, is putting its transitional way of thinking, derived from the experiences of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraqi operation, into action by the expansion of freedom in rooting out terrorists relying on weapons of mass destruction.
Both China and South Korea are trying to settle the conflict between Pyongyang and Washington with a post-Cold War idea by making yet another concession to Kim Jong-il. The outlook, however, is gloomy.
Regardless of the amount of concessions made by South Korea and China, North Korea will not give up its regime and the U.S. also has no intentions of stepping back into its freedom crusade for the time being.
The large concessions made by Seoul might buy a tactical change from the North, but it will not bring a strategic change to the North’s policy.
Even if there are difficulties in cooperating with South Korea, the U.S. will walk its lonely road toward the conversional diplomacy.
The scene rolling before our eyes is the end of the last act.
The announcement by the student council at Seoul National University is a delayed appearance of a new act.
Today’s scene at universities contrasts with a different environment 20 years ago. If the university scene from the 1980s controls the atmosphere at the Blue House, the National Assembly, press, academic world and civil society, then we can expect that the leaders of 2030 are the students of today.
The youth of the 21st century no longer show enthusiasm for independence, unification and anti-Americanism.
Instead of singing “Our Hope is Unification” with an arm on the shoulders of a friend, today’s youth are more accustomed to shouting “Dae Han Min Guk” while matching their steps to the latest dance. They show more interest in online gatherings in cyberspace than anti-U.S. civil movements.
Although the nation and unification of the fatherland are all important, they place a higher priority on the individual and family.
What’s urgent is that despite the birth of a new generation, it is difficult to discover an existing generation to harmonize and work toward a world-class future for the country and the people.
Today’s generation is either failing to recognize that the surroundings have changed from the 1980s or are clinging on to the rapidly disappearing stage because they have failed to keep up with the pace of society.
They must know how to combine the past and future along with the East and West.
The division between unification and anti-unification, globalization and anti-globalization and growth and distribution is yesterday’s issue.
It no longer has a place in the upcoming stage.
Once the local elections come to an end in two weeks, competition among the presidential candidates will commence. The election will decide Korea’s fate in the 21st century.
If the candidates hesitate on the passing stage and fail to step on to the new one, history will not wait for them.
The tardy awareness of the existing generation is essential.
* The writer is a professor of international politics at Seoul National University.
by Ha Young-sun