[VIEWPOINT]South Korea must risk confrontationAmong the academic analyses on the cause of the Korean War, there is a revisionist approach. Regarding the controversy over whether the war was provoked by an invasion here from the North or by a northward invasion from the South, there is a view that the invasion from the North started the war, but it was, in substance, induced by the United States and former President Syngman Rhee of South Korea.
This view was first introduced by Bruce Cumings, an American scholar of Korean history who wrote “The Origin of the Korean War” in 1981. The view was popular among social activists in South Korea at one stage. But the practical as well as academic meaning of the theory faded a long time ago after problems with the revisionist approach were exposed.
Nevertheless, the specter of the revisionist view has returned and it now tries to gloss over the cause of the current nuclear crisis provoked by North Korea’s nuclear test.
Because some in our political community theorize that the United States is responsible for the North Korean nuclear test on Oct. 9, I have the impression that the revisionist view on the cause of the Korean War is now being applied as the cause of the North Korean nuclear crisis.
The origin of the claim that “North Korea went ahead with the nuclear test because of the pressure and threats from the United States,” came from North Korea, the party that actually provoked the crisis. Unfortunately, however, not only the liberal left-leaning faction in our society, but also former President Kim Dae-jung, claims the United States is responsible for the North’s nuclear test.
The responsibility for the current nuclear crisis lies clearly with the North Korea’s nuclear test, not with the negotiation failures or inducements of the United States.
If the negotiation failures of the United States were to be blamed, we would have to also put the blame on the failure of South Korea’s engagement policy toward North Korea.
The foundation of the engagement policy is mutual trust and the principle of reciprocity. And the expected effect of the policy was the reform and the opening of North Korean society, following the Chinese-style reform and open-door policy.
However, the nuclear test that North Korea enforced on Oct. 9 demonstrated clearly that there was no mutual trust between South and North Korea.
President Roh Moo-hyun, who said the North Korean nuclear development program was designed as more of a defensive measure and that it would be possible for South Korea to manage the North’s nuclear program, must have felt as if he had been hit by a hammer in the back of his head.
Moreover, even innocent children know well that the 8-year-old engagement policy toward North Korea was a one-sided pouring of aid to North Korea that made the word reciprocity meaningless.
In addition, the North did not open its society ― except to establish the Kaesong Industrial Complex and to open the Mount Kumgang resort area, two windows for the inflow of cash to North Korea.
Ultimately, the rice, cash and cement we sent to North Korea boomeranged on us in missiles, nuclear weaponsand mockery.
How can we say that such an engagement policy was not a failure?
Carlos Ghosn, the president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co., said, “In a crisis, an amateur makes the problem more complicated, while a professional makes it simpler.”
He is right, in order to overcome a crisis, we must make it simpler. Making the problem simple is digging into the essence, not the surface, of the problem directly. Only then can we find a solution and a breakthrough.
From ancient times, those who led the country in a crisis situation grasped the essence of the situation and simplified the solution.
Through this current incident, we feel keenly that the crisis we are in is a crisis of our leadership rather than a crisis caused by North Korea’s nuclear development. Especially, President Roh seems to be a model amateur who made things more complicated by being at a loss in the face of a crisis.
The fact that the president repeatedly used expressions that distorted the situation and obscured the reality was proof that he was wandering around without finding the direction to which he had to respond to the crisis.
However, we the people must overcome this crisis. It is not time to try to water down the nuclear crisis caused by North Korea by claiming that the United States is responsible for it. It is not a time to play a political game taking the engagement policy that has lost the basis for existence as a cause, either. It is time for the whole nation to have the determination that we will overcome the crisis by seeing the essence of it and resolving to break through it. We have to understand clearly that we can defend our life, fortune and even security and peace only when we are determined to risk confrontations.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?