[OUTLOOK]Roh’s graceless rhetoricAt this sensitive time when the six-party talks are to be resumed, President Roh Moo-hyun has poured out many problematic remarks. When a Korean president visits another country, a meeting with Koreans living there is always included in the schedule. At such a meeting, the president is supposed to cheer up Koreans and listen to their problems and suggestions for their motherland.
But since President Roh entered office, such meetings have become outlets for his provocative remarks. When he is abroad, South Koreans at home become nervous to hear what he will say. He even self-mockingly said that his wife, Kwon Yang-sook, had told him not to make problematic remarks when his approval ratings are so low at home. If he makes such remarks abroad, his ratings will be lowered even more. Still, at a meeting with Koreans living abroad, President Roh said it looked as if the six-party talks would be held and that the ball was in the North’s court, as if the matter did not concern him directly. He also said, “When North Korea is armed with nuclear weapons, it can deliver a deadly blow to us, but it can never defeat South Korea.” He asked a rhetorical question, “Why would North Korea wage war against us when it cannot win or occupy us?” South’s military is superior to the North’s and nuclear deterrence is guaranteed by the United States, he continued, so South Korea should make sure North Korea does not take an extreme measure when or if it is cornered.
As president of South Korea, the most probable victim of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Mr. Roh seems to have little determination and weak willpower to urge North Korea to give up its nuclear devices. Such remarks are enough to raise suspicions that he wants to accept North Korea’s nuclear status, after his earlier remarks that the North had developed nuclear arms in an attempt to gain leverage in negotiations or for self-defense purposes. His comment that North Korea could deliver a deadly blow to South Korea is an inappropriate thing to say for the president, who has responsibility for people’s lives, assets and safety.
U.S. defense intelligence authorities say that if North Korea started a war, it would be impossible to defend the Seoul metropolitan area for the first 24 or up to 48 hours after the attack began. If the metropolitan area, the home of 20 million people, received a deadly blow, what is the point of winning the war?
The U.S. nuclear umbrella is guaranteed when the South Korea-U.S. alliance is firm and the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command operates normally. When the alliance becomes weak and the North’s nuclear armament becomes an irreversible fact, North Korea will gain control over the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. If South Korea intentionally does not make the North’s nuclear program an issue, in an attempt to have a summit meeting between the two Koreas, the South will be diplomatically isolated in international society and dragged along by Kim Jong-il’s gang.
When the president visited Cambodia and Indonesia, he called the Korean War a civil war, causing trouble. It was not a momentary mistake, but reveals his perception of history; with such a perception one believes that the Korean War was South Korea’s invasion of the North and thus denies that the Republic of Korea is the only legitimate country on the Korean Peninsula.
In that respect, President Roh has said in the past that the foundation of the Republic of Korea was the establishment of a divided administration and that justice was defeated and opportunism prevailed in Korea’s modern history. Although such remarks were made by South Korea’s president, who represents the legitimacy of the country, they did not become issues because South Korea’s society has become blind due to its engagement policy and the Sunshine Policy. If one criticizes North Korea’s system or the Sunshine Policy, that person is criticized for opposing reunification and thus for not understanding that the Koreans of both sides are the same nationality.
One of the most inappropriate remarks by President Roh was about China and Japan having “committed burglaries” in Korea. When he met Koreans living in New Zealand, he said “In the past, our country was weak and stuck between China and Japan. When Japan was unified, it invaded Korea and when a strong dynasty arose, it always committed burglaries in Korea. When a new dynasty emerged in China, it also committed burglaries in Korea. But now Korea has become powerful enough to stop them from doing so.”
His rhetoric has no grace and it is hard to believe such a remark was made by the president of today’s Korea, who shouts for comprehensive partnerships with neighboring countries in the region, such as China and Japan.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Byun Sang-keun