[Viewpoint]A respite in WashingtonGrand National Party lawmaker Lee Jae-oh left for Washington, D.C. on May 26. Washington is a memorable place for many Korean politicians. President Lee Myung-bak, Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu, former presidential candidate Rhee In-je and Grand National Party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo all dreamed of political comebacks by the Potomac River. Some made their dreams come true, while others failed. Lee Jae-oh is going away, leaving an imprisonment of seven years, the glory of being a three-term lawmaker and the shock of an election defeat and Park Geun-hye behind in Seoul.
Lee Jae-oh has been celebrated as the No. 2 man in the Lee Myung-bak administration. What will Washington, D.C. show him?
He will find the political order of a democratic government there. The center of the U.S. capital is not the White House but Capitol Hill. Across the Potomac River from Arlington National Cemetery is the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln is the president of national integration and one of the most respected American figures. A sculpture of Lincoln is seated in a gigantic stone structure, gazing toward Capitol Hill. He might be the guardian angel of the United States’ congressional democracy.
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Americans have shed blood to make the United States what it is today. Their ancestors established a civil state in the New World in 1776, having fought a bloody war against Britain. The philosophy of liberty and equality sailed across the Atlantic, and in 1789, the French Revolution broke out. The founding of the United States was a major event in human history.
Americans celebrate their independence with spectacular fireworks on the Fourth of July. The fireworks in the sky over Washington are particularly magnificent. On the hill south of the Potomac River is a famous statue of American soldiers who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. In March 1945, U.S. Marines hoisted the Stars and Stripes on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima after a fierce battle. The U.S. Marines lost 6,800 troops in the battle. You can begin to understand the United States when you see the flames of America’s founding and smell the smoke from Iwo Jima.
You can also see North Korea’s place in the world when you are in Washington. Experts on the Korean Peninsula constantly hold seminars and talk about North Korea. From a South Korean perspective, North Korea is the other half.
However, if you see it from Washington, D.C., the North is a strange, small country that starves its citizens while developing nuclear weapons. The Harvard University endowment fund manages over $30 billion. This is enough money to revive the North Korean economy twice.
The World Bank is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and whenever I go past the building, I think of North Korea. When will Pyongyang open up and ask for help here?
Washington, D.C. has a major African-American community. While African-Americans are less than 20 percent of the U.S. population, they make up far more than half of the people in the U.S. capital. Clean jobs in water supply services are occupied by Caucasians, while dirty jobs in the sewage system are mostly taken by African-Americans. The southern area of Washington, D.C. is considered a dangerous neighborhood.
The U.S. capital represents the darker side of the United States. Washington, D.C. reveals the essence of the racial issues raised by Senator Barack Obama and the spirit of the United States that makes him a Democratic presidential candidate.
You can go to the hamburger joint Fuddruckers in Washington, D.C. Whether you belong to the working class or the middle class, or even if you own a multimillion-dollar mansion in McLean, Virginia, you will love their hamburgers.
Everyone ? male and female, young and old, Caucasian, African-American and Asian ? enjoy beef there from cows older than 30 months. Lee Jae-oh will stay with a Korean-American family during his stay. How about having a hamburger at Fuddruckers and thinking about American beef, the alliance between Korea and the United States and the groundless scare that has swept through Seoul?
Washington, D.C. is a city of connections. People from all corners of the world come here with dreams and make connections. The bonds formed in Washington, D.C. are continued in Moscow, Paris, Beijing and Dubai. Some are spiritual and others are secular. What kind of relations are waiting for Lee Jae-oh? He has never accumulated wealth in an unlawful way, he spent seven years in prison, and he was frustrated just as he was about to grasp power in the Lee administration.
If he rides his bicycle all over Washington, D.C. just as he did in his district of Eunpyeong, the U.S. capital might show him another side of the world.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin