[Viewpoint] Addressing the unreasonable

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[Viewpoint] Addressing the unreasonable

When Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings with feathers and wax for Icarus and himself to escape their prison island, he warned his son not to fly too high. However, Icarus wished to fly as high as he could. He flew toward the sun, but when the wax melted, the inevitable happened. He fell.

The Mount Kumgang tourist resort and the Kaesong Industrial Complex sound like great programs. We hoped the profit from the resort might change North Korean thinking. We also thought that wages paid to North Korean workers would make a good impression. However, incomprehensible events have happened: a South Korean tourist has been killed in Kumgang and another South Korean, a worker at the industrial complex, has been held by the North.

The six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program and the process to disable nuclear facilities came to nothing. In fact, the six-party talks involve a good helping of hypocrisy. When Pyongyang has already given birth to an illegitimate child - its atomic bomb - and is raising it in the back room, what’s the point of discussing birth control? It is the same with its missile. When a missile is already flying across the Pacific Ocean, we seem left with the silly solution of “resolving the issue with dialogue.”

The reason for the fiasco is that we failed to understand the North. We began talks based on the premise that the other party is just as reasonable as we are. The Sept. 11 terror attacks happened in the United States because Washington did not believe Al Qaeda would think of such unreasonable attacks. The Sunshine Policy and the six-party talks began from believing in North Korea’s logic. Sensible people would think it crazy to build nuclear weapons and missiles when its citizens are starving to death. The North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom virtually confessed how unreasonable Pyongyang is when he said, “Being poor does not mean we cannot have a space program.”

When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler, the British welcomed the peace arrangement. They believed that the German dictator would be just as reasonable. However, Hitler treated the Munich Agreement like a mere scrap of paper. An agreement is only valid when both sides accept the same reasoning. The Sunshine Policy itself is respectable. However, it can only work when the other side is as sensible as we are.

So how do we handle the unreasonable party? The fall of Communist Eastern Europe was ignited by Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland. The pope held an outdoor mass and courageously spoke of individual dignity and truth. He reminded the Poles that they were not just defined by the Communists but were precious beings who deserved to be treated with dignity. In Peggy Noonan’s biography of the pope, “John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father” the Poles were described as transformed after that mass. The Soviet Union did not collapse because it did not have missiles or nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan was convinced that only religion could correct a system like communism. At a summit meeting, he advocated freedom of religion and human rights. He invited anti-government figures to his hotel in the middle of Moscow. The Wall Street Journal reported that at an unofficial meeting, he asserted the existence of God and tried to persuade Mikhail Gorbachev, amusing his aides.

I don’t think unification can be accomplished through successful meetings with North Korea. What’s more desperately needed is to enlighten the enervated conscience of the North Koreans. As we provide humanitarian aid, we need to plant the seed to awaken their dignity and self-respect. North Koreans should realize that they do not deserve starvation and oppression. Rational human beings demand liberty, human rights and happiness.

Those who believe in reason need to assert this point to the North, but the South Korean progressives are somehow quite agreeable toward the North. We should not be stirred by the whispers that we need to neglect the truth because of a possibility of war. South Korea needs to be braver.

We should be bold enough to demand human rights and liberty in the North, not because it’s their most vulnerable point but because it is our duty to bring liberty to North Koreans.

At the same time, we should be fully prepared to defend ourselves and deter any North Korean provocation. Defense spending should be increased to build a missile defense system and participate in the U.S. Proliferation Security Initiative. North Korea’s missile launch calls for a new South Korean determination.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk

The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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