[OUTLOOK]React strongly to North’s threatsIf a person acts without a proper understanding of his or her position, the person is seen as indiscreet. Such a person is bullied or even ridiculed by others. It is the same for a country. When a country attempts something it is not capable of and behaves oddly without a proper understanding of its situation, it is indiscreet. If a small country follows indiscreet policies, it becomes hard for it to stay afloat. This is why when a country is small, it needs to try even harder to follow wise policies and act prudently.
But this country seems to be an indiscreet one, judging from what has happened since North Korea’s missile launchings. If a person worries about someone else when he or she is the one in trouble, that person is called thoughtless and nosy.
South Korea is the only country within reach of North Korea’s missiles. But South Korea has taken the launches lightly and told the United States and Japan not to worry because the missiles were not aimed at them. Overestimating oneself is also imprudent behavior. The South Korean government behaves as if it is trying to prevent a war from occurring; it talks about facilitating dialogue with North Korea or helping resume the six-party talks.
One cannot think of the Korean Peninsula alone, apart from the dynamics of international politics. South Korea has only a partial influence on the peninsula. Whether war can be avoided depends on the political circumstances of the international community. Thus, South Korea should be sensitive to international relations. It is thoughtless to demand international cooperation while stirring up sentiment and rage in neighboring countries.
Helping someone is a good deed. However, if one helps someone beyond his capabilities, the helper is seen as imprudent and people can be doubtful about his intentions. You punish people for wrongdoings and reward them for good deeds. This is a normal reaction. When North Korea fired its missiles, it should have been punished sternly.
However, while international society is working for sanctions on North Korea, South Korea seems to be working hard to give more cash to the North, saying that the Kaesong industrial park and the Mount Kumgang business are not related to the North’s missile launches.
As an imprudent and thoughtless person has no friends, South Korea has begun to be isolated in international society. When the United States, China and Japan sponsored their proposals for a United Nations resolution, South Korea was totally isolated. It is unclear how much information South Korea shared with Washington and Tokyo when Pyongyang launched its missiles.
Even North Korea bullies South Korea. The North is being bossy to the South. The North has cancelled reunions of separated families residing in the two Koreas. It has evicted South Korean workers from Mount Kumgang. Though the North is the desperate and needy partner, it behaves as if it were the boss. The roles have been reversed.
President Roh Moo-hyun telephoned his counterpart in China. Perhaps Mr. Roh thought China was the only country to lean on as his country became increasingly isolated. But China does not welcome a South Korea that is isolated from the United States. South Korea is welcome only when Washington backs it. China might now see South Korea as it did 100 years ago, at the end of Joseon Dynasty.
We should understand our capabilities and our situation clearly. South Korea is a small country that cannot live outside of the international community. Let’s face facts. Without the United States and Japan, for how many days could the South Korean economy survive? How about our military and intelligence gathering power? We cannot compete against Japan. Japan spends a lot of money on its military, second only to the United States.
If a naval clash occurred in the waters around the Dokdo islets, South Korea could not sustain the battle for more than a couple of hours with our naval capability. The South Korean government should not stir up anti-Japanese sentiment among people for no good reason.
Take a look at Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan. He makes impulsive and unpredictable acts within his country, just as President Roh does. But when it comes to the United States, Mr. Koizumi becomes as meek and gentle as a lamb. I do not mean that President Roh should become servile. I mean that he should react with a proper understanding of the situation of our country.
Use common sense and follow principles. That is it. Forming an alliance between South Korea, the United States and Japan makes good sense. That is the best way. The principle of diplomacy is not to step backward in the face of physical threats. Compromise over physical threats means subordination. Shortly before World War II, former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain compromised with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, after Hitler made threats. The British prime minister believed that he had gained peace but it was a big mistake. When faced with threats of a war, one should prepare for a war to stop it from occurring.
If we give in to the North’s threats, we are no different from North Korean residents who give in to the dictatorship. Abiding by rules of international society is the right way to abide by principles. The South Korean government should not try to avoid the UN resolution by emphasizing self-reliance and the same national identity as North Koreans. If South Korea is acknowledged as a country that abides by principles and common sense, many countries will come and help it, no matter how bad a situation the country may be in.
Things are going wrong in this country. The people who are supposed to guard the fences of the country are actually tearing them down. Who will protect this country? As the national anthem goes, we can only wait for protection from the gods.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk