[Viewpoint] Strange silence on terrorism

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[Viewpoint] Strange silence on terrorism

It was the first terrorist suicide bomb attack against Koreans in history, but everyone, from the president to denizens of the Internet, has been silent. Are we in trauma?

The terrorist attack in Yemen against Korean tourists has shocked and frightened us. For the first time Koreans fell victim to a suicide bomb and became sacrificial objects for Al-Qaeda. A second terrorist bomb attack a few days later may have also targeted the family members of the Koreans [who had traveled to Yemen to take the victims home].

But despite such shocking incidents, Koreans have kept surprisingly silent. One week has now passed since the bombings, but the president has not said anything.

The president is remaining silent even though Korean citizens were mercilessly killed overseas, and even though this is the first time anything like this has happened in Korean history. The National Assembly is also strangely silent.

There are no voices denouncing the acts of brutality. The government and the opposition parties continue to fight each other with verbal and physical attacks, yet they are speechless about these brutal acts of international terrorism.

Reporting on the terrorist attacks on Koreans in Yemen had almost disappeared from the 9 o’clock television news by the weekend. Several days ago the news on the Yemen terrorist attacks disappeared from our Internet portals.

Is Korea a nation that does not know how to express rage?

The only reaction the Korean government has expressed so far was the statement issued by the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on March 17, two days after the Shibam attack.

The government held a working-level anti-terrorism meeting in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade took the lead. It must be experiencing delays in finding a solution.

The incident happened in a remote place in the Middle East, far away from home. Korea has to depend on the United States or the Yemeni government for any information on the attackers.

There is also concern that if too much attention is given to the victims of terrorism, the terrorist group might target Koreans once more.

But are these the only reasons for Korea’s silence?

The Korean people have experienced terrorism from North Korea for a long time. The North made an attempt on the life of President Park Chung Hee by sending an assassination squad to the Blue House in 1968, and detonating a bomb at the National Cemetery in 1970. In 1983, they killed South Korean cabinet ministers at the Aung San Mausoleum in Burma. In 1987, they sent a young female spy to blow up a Korean airliner.

These atrocious incidents are rooted in the history of Korea. But there were no suicide bombers to spread terror with their lethal belts or vests.

Islamic terrorism cast its dark shadow over the Korean people in June 2004 when Kim Sun-il, an employee of a Korean military contractor, was kidnapped and decapitated by an Islamic militant group.

Three years later, Korean Christian missionaries were kidnapped in Afghanistan. The Taliban killed the male members of the group and held the females captive for a long time. As such incidents broke out, terrorism from Islamic militants might have become a horrible experience that Koreans do not want to remember.

Perhaps we are suffering from trauma. If we are, it may be difficult for us to react to an incident. Why should we think about Yemen when the dramatic finals are unfolding for Korea and Japan at the World Baseball Classic?

Why should we recall the suicide bomb belts that killed four Korean nationals in Yemen when there are so many interesting names on the list [of abusers] written by an actress who committed suicide?

Why should we agonize over terror attacks in Yemen, a country far away from Korea, when the Kaesong Industrial Complex right under our noses is at stake with the North tormenting us by closing and opening its border repeatedly?

If Al-Qaeda has increased terrorrist activities and the Middle East is dangerous, isn’t it safer for us to avoid traveling to that area?

Perhaps Koreans are slowly absorbing this psychology. Terrorism does not disappear because you avoid talking about it or hide from it.

Our first reaction to terrorist activities should be to express our outrage and criticism. We have to shout that killing innocent civilians is in fact anti-Islamic.

The terrorists might have already sold their souls to the devil, but we have to isolate Al-Qaeda from the civilized world by condemning them repeatedly.

When we actively share our pain and terror to the world, the alliance of freedom and human rights will grow stronger and Korea will become a leading country in the civilized world.

Watching terrorism suspects, establishing measures against them and restricting travel to the Middle East should be done after that.

When a nation has a reason to be outraged, the president should express this sentiment first. He should make it clear that Korea strongly condemns such immoral acts and will not shrink from terrorism. The president should feel pain when a Korean citizen is killed overseas.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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