[FOUNTAIN]The U.S.-Korea tug of war

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[FOUNTAIN]The U.S.-Korea tug of war

Autumn is the season for athletic festivals. Many people have memories of feasts with flags of many nations flying under the blue sky. A sports event that often highlights a festival is the tug of war. Students are divided into blue and white teams to tug on the rope with all their might. The rule is quite simple. When the piece of flag tied in the middle of the rope slants toward one side, the game is over. Simple as it is, the game is full of excitement and is more competitive than any other game. The highlight of the game is the sense of unity on a team. The winning team cries out for joy and the defeated team has to look forward to the next year to regain bragging rights.
People often compare negotiations to tugs of war. The process of negotiation is similar to the struggle and effort expended in the game. Of course negotiations that concern national interests are more serious than sports. Negotiation between delegates from countries can be intense at many levels.
In a sense it is hard to define the loser and winner of a negotiation, and that is a main difference from a game of tug of war.
The result of a negotiation does not always produce a clear winner or loser. It is about compromise and give and take.
If a negotiation is advantageous for only one side, then it is not a negotiation.
The winner and the loser are different according to who does the calculation. There can be no clear-cut answers.
The debate over transferring wartime operational command of Korea’s military between the United States and Korea at first seemed like a giant game of tug of war.
It seemed like the two countries were struggling to take over the wartime command.
And it looked like whichever country took over wartime control would be the winner.
President Roh Moo-hyun stimulated the debate by saying that gaining wartime control would provide the added benefit of “independence.”
However, as the game actually started, things turned out differently.
The United States let go of the rope too easily. Who won or lost in this game is now too confusing to know.
And now, a new round of tug of war has begun. It is a power fight over when the wartime command will be handed over.
The United States wants to give it back as soon as possible, while the Korean government’s goal in the negotiation is to take it as late as possible.
It is an usual round of tug of war.


by Kim Jong-soo

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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