[Outlook]Taking what is givenGuaranteeing the people’s well being and the security of the country are the minimum duties of a modern state. Korea has now developed to the extent that it is invited to the G-8 summit meeting. However, one often wonders whether the Korea of the 21st century is fulfilling these duties adequately. That question has pushed its way to the fore over the past 10 days.
The integrity of these two pillars of stability have been seriously threatened. An innocent person was shot to death and Japan is attempting to take Dokdo away from us even though the islets have been Korean territory since the Silla Dynasty. But the country is not ensuring its security or presenting strong, effective measures to overcome the territorial dispute.
It is time for the National Security Council to stand up and take charge in protecting the people and our territory. But the NSC has just been talking about basic principles, not presenting distinct resolutions.
It said it would enhance the system in place for handling national emergencies, but anybody can say that much. The NSC plans to investigate the management of Hyundai Asan, but that is only a secondary measure.
The council said we should respond to the Dokdo issue from a strategic and long-term perspective. This response certainly can’t be regarded as being drawn up by experts in tune with the modern geopolitics of the region, especially since it has been repeated since 1952. The first NSC that convened under the incumbent administration held amateur debates that didn’t present any professional diplomatic strategies.
The North Korean military shot a middle-aged South Korean woman who was taking a leisurely stroll by the shore at dawn. Even if the soldier was lacking sleep, was starving and was full of hatred, the killing is an unforgivable provocation. If the official channels through which we can protest this outrage are blocked, the government must send a special envoy or put pressure on the United States.
But instead, the administration has just decided to halt sightseeing to Mount Kumkang and stop providing aid to North Korea. One wonders if these old moves will actually get a response out of a North Korea that is accustomed to hunger.
The North Korean military killed an innocent housewife, but no one is taking responsibility. This is how the incumbent administration is. The government criticized the former administration’s North Korea policy, but suddenly changed its stance to one open to dialogue with the North.
As for the Dokdo issue, it is even more difficult to see what the country is doing. The Library of Congress in the United States was about to change the keyword “Dokdo” to “Liancourt Rocks.” It was Koreans living in Canada and the United States who persuaded the library not to do so.
It was a Korean singer who ran an advertisement that announced that Dokdo is Korea’s territory in The New York Times.
It was ordinary netizens who found the addresses of Web sites worldwide that use “Takeshima,” the Japanese name for the islets, instead of Dokdo. If there had been a national agency full of experts collecting historical documents or related data and responding to Japan’s repeated provocations, there would have been no need to make immediate moves, such as recalling the ambassador to Japan.
But the government suggested a calm response from a strategic, long-term perspective. This is not wrong, but no one feels relieved to hear these words any more. These are the same words that the government says whenever this issue surfaces.
While the government was busy repeating these empty words, there was an association of scholars was collecting historic documents and seeking resolutions.
After the United Nations adopted the new Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1996, Japan maneuvered to make Dokdo its territory. Professor Shin Yong-ha and the association for the protection of Dokdo worked in the academic field to fight against the move.
However, Shin’s cry was muted by an administration that sought a quiet resolution. Still a vast amount of material that proves Dokdo has long been Korea’s territory was published in four volumes of books and can be found in libraries.
One hundred and eight years ago, Emperor Gojong of the Korean Empire sensed Japan’s attempt to make Dokdo its territory and promulgated Royal Order 41 to send an administrator to govern Ulleung Island and Dokdo. The country did its duty at that time, even though it was shortly before Japan occupied Korea by force.
The 1943 Cairo Declaration stated that Japan would leave the territory that it had forcibly occupied. The 1946 announcement by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers stated that Ulleung Island and the Liancourt Rocks were not Japan’s territory. These are international documents that proclaim Dokdo is Korea’s territory.
If the country can’t take what is given to it, it is not a decent country. On the weekend, when the typhoon hit, the government moved fast.
But for the 10 days before that, Korea was slow to do anything about the North Korean killing and Dokdo issues.
*The writer is a professor of sociology at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.