[Outlook]Encroaching imperialismKorea’s series of victories in Beijing are another blessing to help us commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the republic this year. The whole nation has rejoiced at the news of the many victories that have compensated the Korean athletes for their endless training and hardship.
However, troubles still lurk beneath the surface. It seems that the Korean people feel the urge to shrug off their anxieties, as beset as they are with troubles both at home and abroad.
During the past few months, we have noticed that echoes of imperialism are returning to the international arena.
In addition, we are witnessing evil omens heralding the appearance of unfavorable conditions for Korea from a geopolitical point of view.
Amid these increasingly ominous signs, we are confronted with a crisis. The public is suffering from a chronic disruptive illness once again, and our society has become overwhelmed by distrust, jealousy and hatred.
The Korean Peninsula, the territory where the Korean people live their lives, is surrounded by three neighbors: China, Russia and Japan.
These three are far bigger than Korea, and they almost invariably have inherent imperialist tendencies.
We will never forget that they serve as a constant threat to the peaceful existence of the Korean people in the future, even though we have entered into the era of globalization.
There are three worrying propensities in particular that we need to recognize.
First, an increasingly reactionary atmosphere has been revived. They are all attempting to regain their past imperialistic glory.
Second, although they have achieved their own political and economic reforms, they feel uneasy about whether their achievements will lead to long-term stability and development.
Third, there is a clear sign that nationalism is being bolstered as the easiest measure to resolve the general atmosphere of fear about the future.
Koreans want to congratulate China on its hosting of the world’s largest sports festival, having witnessed the visually stunning Beijing Olympics facilities and the splendid opening ceremony.
It is also understood that China has expressed a strong commitment to regain its earlier position of power and to re-establish itself as Asia’s preponderant player.
Against this backdrop, it is hard not to feel anxious about how we are going to be able to build a peaceful coexistence and work toward co-prosperity in Korea-Sino relations in a sound and constructive manner.
Meanwhile, Russia reigned supreme as the Soviet Union only 10 or so years ago. The country flaunted its power by the use of force in the Russia-Georgia conflict. The battle broke out as a result of Russia’s imperialist tradition and Georgia’s complex internal troubles, and the dramatic war left a profound impression on us.
Following the events on TV as Russian tanks and planes quashed the Georgians, we were reminded of the Korean War, and Hungary in 1956.
Another reason why we cannot forget the bitter taste left by imperialism is Japan’s stubborn attitude surrounding the Dokdo issue in recent days.
Japan is insisting that Dokdo was officially incorporated into Shimane Prefecture in 1905.
It means that Japan seemingly has no hesitation in taking a reactionary stance or in forgetting the historic significance of the year 1905.
Japan had succeeded in fulfilling two tasks with its Meiji Restoration: Westernization and rapid modernization.
Although belatedly, Japan plunged into the maelstrom of imperialist struggle in the Far East.
It mercilessly colonized our country from 1910 to 1945 by entering into the Protectorate Treaty with Korea in 1905.
Some people might dismiss regrets about Japan’s past mistakes and wrongdoings of its imperialist era as an already-finished one-act drama.
But there is a dangerous trend in the country now, as Japan tries to disguise its wish to regain its past imperialist power as a new nationalism.
It is our sincere hope that Japan will not be eager to take advantage of the trend.
How can we protect our national destiny and open up a new way forward in an insecure international environment in which the new dynamics of the imperialist era are ongoing?
This is an historic task that needs to be completed as we celebrate Korea’s Liberation Day.
It is commonly acknowledged that the Korean people are armed with outstanding qualities and extraordinary abilities.
The Korean national flag, which is waving in Beijing, is a symbol that represents Koreans’ splendid capabilities.
However, if we still have some fears about the future, it is because we have not resolved doubts on how we can recover from the ongoing disruptions facing Korean society - division, chaos and confrontation.
The first and foremost task to cure such a chronic illness is to recognize that personal resentment is a matter of community that we should work on together.
We should embark on a concerted endeavor to resolve these problems that we are dealing with in a systematic manner.
There is no time to wait.
We should also keep in mind the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” It is time for the whole nation to gain an invaluable lesson from the sentiment expressed by this axiom, based on our sincere belief in ourselves.
*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hong-koo