[VIEWPOINT]Koreans are amateurs in diplomacy

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[VIEWPOINT]Koreans are amateurs in diplomacy

Yoon Young-kwan, professor of international relations at Seoul National University, made controversial remarks recently, as he criticized the foreign policy of the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Professor Yoon called the foreign policy of Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor at the time of Germany’s reunification, a successful example of self-reliant diplomacy.
In retrospect, fortune was on Germany’s side when East and West Germany unified. The fall of the Berlin Wall on Sept. 9, 1989, made the reunification a fait accompli. What remained was the negotiation of the exchange rate between the East German mark and the Deutsche mark and the integration of the social and legal systems. There w e from the outside. The key was to obtain approval from the four powers that won World War II: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and France. The only country that supported reunification from the beginning was the United States.
While France and the United Kingdom initially opposed the idea, it was a relatively easy task for Chancellor Kohl to persuade the allies. The challenge was the Soviet Union, which had 380,000 troops stationed in East Germany.
Chancellor Kohl and his foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, flew to Moscow and the Caucasus to try to persuade Mikhail Gorbachev, then the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
At last, Mr. Kohl obtained consent in return for assistance of 15 billion marks, or about $10 billion. Furthermore, Germany even offered to build homes for returning Soviet troops who were stationed in East Germany. If the Soviet troops had insisted on staying, the reunification would have been far more difficult.
The reunification of Germany that took place on Oct. 3, 1990, was a triumph of diplomacy rather than simple luck. Of course, the ostpolitik, or eastern politics, of West Germany and the consequent expansion of human and material exchanges certainly contributed to the reunification. Yet, the link between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification was Mr. Kohl’s diplomatic caliber, which resolved the external obstacles at once.
When the Soviet Union dissolved a year after Germany’s reunification, Mr. Kohl was greatly relieved. If Germany “had not gotten on the train of reunification,” as he put it, the reunification could have been extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible. According to international law, Germany would have needed consent from Russia as well as from each of the 15 other independent republics. Who knows what kind of demands those fledgling countries with struggling economies would have made on Germany.
Forty-five years after World War II, Germany completely retrieved its sovereignty. The country’s national football squad won the year’s World Cup at just the right time, boosting the spirit of the unified Germany. Mr. Kohl, as the chancellor of the unified Germany, deserved to be proud of his accomplishment. Having made reunification possible, he must have thought that he should be given the international prestige suited for the leader of the country with the most powerful economy in Europe.
Just around that time in January 1991 the first Gulf War broke out. Mr. Kohl was not enthusiastic about the campaign led by the United States. He did not send troops and was reluctant to share the burden of war expenses.
Washington, as well as the American public, was furious that Germany had paid $10 billion to the Soviet Union but refused to contribute to the U.S.-led campaign. Mr. Genscher immediately flew to Washington to apologize, only to be given a cold reception.
In the end, Mr. Kohl himself had to visit Washington and promised to pay $12 billion, 16 percent of the 76.1 billion dollar total cost. Germany made the biggest contribution aside from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Only then did Washington relent and call Germany a steady and reliable ally of the United States.
Doesn’t Germany have pride? Germans have a reputation for pride in the international community. Then why did Berlin work so hard to please Washington? They must have decided that the alliance with the United States was directly related to the economic and diplomatic interests of Germany. Having been momentarily elated by his success, Mr. Kohl learned a lesson by paying a high price. Diplomacy is a grim reality ruled by the dynamics of power, and there is no such thing as a vacuum of dominant power in international politics.
Professor Yoon called Mr. Kohl’s diplomacy a successful case of self-reliant foreign policy because of its stark contrast to Korean foreign policy.
In short, the difference between the foreign policies of Seoul and Berlin is the difference between an amateur and a professional.
Of course, the Roh Moo-hyun administration is not wrong in believing that it should say what it has to say to the United States. It is true that such an attitude made the relationship between the two countries healthier than it had been in the past.
However, there are things in diplomacy that are better left unsaid. The administration has made some unreasonable jumps of logic, arguing that the United States is not perfect, either, and blaming Washington for trying to strangle Pyongyang.
Such comments mean the administration has given up diplomacy. A self-reliant foreign policy might sound tempting. However, in many cases, national interests are often inversely related to pride.
If it benefits the national interest, it is okay to put pride aside, just as Germany did.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Yoo Jae-sik
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
s
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now