[Viewpoint] The state exists to protect its peopleUnited States Navy Seals killed three Somali pirates and saved the life of a hostage, the American ship captain Richard Phillips. Three snipers took precise head shots at three pirates as dark fell at sea amid rough waves. They waited a long time and took their chance when the pirates opened a hatch on the lifeboat they had seized from Phillips’s ship and poked out.
How hard and long did they have to train for such a moment? They must have lain down, taken aim and pulled the trigger countless times. They probably ran along the shore tugging rubber boats while other young men read books at Ivy League university libraries or shouted and cheered at baseball stadiums.
The captain volunteered himself as a hostage to save his crew, and his state saved his life.
There are many definitions of a state, but what is the primary definition? Isn’t it the ability to solve problems? Solving the people’s problems of life and property is probably the state’s most important ability. Isn’t a state a problem-solver that feeds the people when they are hungry, rescues them when they are in danger and fulfills their last wishes when they die?
A state solves such problems no matter how far away its people are.
In 1976, Israeli Defense Forces flew to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, thousands of kilometers away from home, to kill Palestinian terrorists and save the lives of Israelis they were holding held captive.
Like the U.S. Navy Seals, French special forces also killed Somali pirates who had hijacked a private yacht, and rescued hostages.
In the history of hostage-taking, Korea has many deplorable memories.
In the 1960s and ’70s, innocent Korean fishermen were kidnapped to North Korea. But we had to put up with the situation, because we were forced to exercise restraint in order to avoid a war. We could not retaliate even if attacked.
In the 21st century, Koreans have been affected by Islamic terrorism.
But we could not do anything about that, either. Korea is simply too far away from the base of the terrorists, and we were unable to identify the culprits or take action to stop them.
Korea had to stand back and watch when a young Korean man was beheaded by Iraqi militants, when a group of Taliban bandits seized a Korean missionary group in Afghanistan, and when Al Qaeda operatives killed Korean tourists with a suicide bomb in Yemen.
If the incidents had taken place in an area near Korea geographically and without political complications, the Korean Special Warfare Command or the Marine Corps Forces would certainly have stepped in. They are as skilled in combat as the Navy Seals or Israel’s IDF.
If nothing could be done because of circumstances beyond the state’s control, it should at least console the people in their moment of rage and grief. It should show it understands the feeling of injustice and helplessness in a quiet and solemn manner.
However, what happened under the Roh Moo-hyun administration? Kim Man-bok, the head of the National Intelligence Service at the time and a favorite of the president, ran to Afghanistan where Koreans were held captive and stood in front of photographers. Next to him, a negotiator from the service, wearing sunglasses, showed his face to the entire world. The National Intelligence Service circulated a self-congratulatory press release stating that the head of the service used his experience in intelligence to play a big role in solving the problem.
But is giving huge amounts of money to bandit groups in return for hostages something to be boasting about to the whole world? How could the head of the National Intelligence Service smile when two hostages had been brutally murdered?
In Seoul, this man appeared at the wedding of a family member of Park Yeon-cha, former chairman of Taekwang Industrial. He even posted his cell phone number on the Web site of his high school class.
With the head of the National Intelligence Service acting like this, it’s no wonder foreign intelligence organizations look down on Korean intelligence. I wonder whether the Taliban and Al Qaeda are aware of this, too.
In terms of problem-solving, the Roh Moo-hyun administration was a slovenly state.
The government failed to handle the situation when violent protestors beat up soldiers in Pyeongtaek, and when left-wing extremists tried to tear down a monument to General Douglas MacArthur.
It must have been slovenly since the president was a comedian, the first lady dealt in foreign exchange and the head of intelligence was a self-promoting jokester.
King Munmu the Great, the Korean destroyer dispatched to Somalia, must stay alert. Korean diplomats in Yemen should also be on alert. They must attend all court hearings on Al Qaeda, keep records and memorize faces and voices.
The state is not a club for political activists or foreign exchange dealers.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin