[LETTERS to the editor]Turning back the clock
The Korean Peninsula remains divided but in recent times it looked like a fresh start was on the horizon because of the Sunshine Policy adopted by more pragmatic leaders in previous South Korean administrations. North Korea, in return, responded favorably and you could see that a genuine thaw was happening. However, the new leader of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, is turning the clock back, and quickly.
Now we are seeing the demise of the Sunshine Policy and the real threat of a maverick causing mayhem. Will Lee wise up or will he upset the balance too much?
Before I turn to the current leader of South Korea, it is worth mentioning a little bit about the past. After all, most people and societies have been manipulated to solely focus on the negatives of North Korea.
However, what about the negatives of South Korea?
Which nation, then, is more independent than the other?
The answer, obviously, is North Korea, because it is South Korea that allows a foreign army to protect her. Also, until the 1990s nearly every leader of South Korea could trace family links to Japan and the imperial system. So unlike the leaders of North Korea, who fought against Japanese imperialism, it is clear that South Korean leaders had supported Japanese imperialism against their own people.
Given this, the North Korean leaders do have a point about being “the heirs” of an independent nation. However, if we focus on economics, it is clear that since the 1980s the government of North Korea has been found wanting, because while South Korea began to develop rapidly, the opposite happened in North Korea.
In this area much work needs to be done to kick-start the North Korean economy.
So clearly there are positives and negatives within both countries. However, from a North Korean point of view, they could have focused on their economy much more if South Korea had not been so hostile.
For much of the past decade, relations have begun to develop between South Korea and North Korea, and the Sunshine Policy did help to pave the way for better ties. Some South Koreans complained that they had bent over backwards in order to get only meager results.
In truth, however, the results were not so meager. After all, now there is a new inter-Korean industrial complex, a new freight train service, South Korean tourists are welcomed in special areas and trade has begun to increase.
More important, the nuclear issue has begun to be dealt with in a positive manner, mainly enabled by both nations working together in order to foster mutual respect and cooperation.
Yet this thaw and hope appears to be under threat because of the new leader in Seoul. The new leader, President Lee, went for the jugular from day one when he came out with anti-North Korea comments. Even more alarming were comments made by a senior general who spoke about attacking North Korea (pre-emptively in case of a nuclear threat).
The new government in South Korea is clearly anti-North Korea, pro-America and pro-Japan. So Kim Jong-il responded in kind, and he also began to become more bellicose. Given this, tensions are once more causing concern and the “old ways” are returning. This recent situation is clearly not in the interest of any nation in the region because Northeast Asia needs stability, not mayhem or racked up tensions.
Overall, the future of the Korean Peninsula now looks bleak again and you clearly have one person to blame for this — the South Korean leader, President Lee.
So can more moderate voices in South Korea rise up to prevent further tensions? Or will he keep blundering on? For now, we don’t really know because it is still early for the new leader of South Korea. But the signs do not look good.
Lee Jay Walker, Asaka, Japan
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