[Viewpoint] Korea neglects its duty in Haiti

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[Viewpoint] Korea neglects its duty in Haiti

People around the world were full of hopes for the new millennium at the dawn of the 21st century. Then the god of history made mankind witness the horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Humanity again began dreaming of a new future as the second decade of the century began. The ghosts of the economic crisis started to disappear. Apple led the way by presenting the iPad. But again, the god of history unleashed an inferno. This time, it was the earthquake in Haiti.

In A.D. 79, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius completely destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii. Nearly 2,000 years later, the possibility of instantaneous destruction still hovers over the fate of the humankind.

The earthquake in Haiti is a new sort of hell. We have seen many natural disasters that cost tens of thousands of lives. Great earthquakes damaged China’s Sichuan region, Kobe in Japan and Turkey in recent years, and a tsunami devastated Southeast Asia.

But we have never seen a capital destroyed and a government fall as they did in Haiti. People have never thrown themselves into the ocean out of fear of the land. The natural disasters of the past did not threaten the human instinct to survive.

Haiti is a nation founded by former black slaves. The Caribbean republic is poor, but it’s a proof of human victory over the lowest point of history. Yet the god knocked down the wretched victims and survivors. The god’s curse on civilization is too cruel.

Will humans be beaten and defeated by the merciless god? No. There has to be a way for mankind to reassert itself and prove its power. We can make the reconstruction of Haiti yet another step in the progress of our civilization.

Throughout human history, progress has saved people from a form of oppression. In 1517, German theologian Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation to save the people from the tyranny of religious indulgences, and with it opened the modern era. The American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789 saved the people from the yokes of colonial and feudal rule. In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln set into motion the slaves’ emancipation, helping save the people from race-based oppression. Thirty years later, New Zealand became the first country to give suffrage to women, and humanity began to break away from gender discrimination. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and the free spirit of humanity was liberated from communism. In 2009, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States.

Humanity has torn down walls built by the god. But shadows still darken the countries that once were under the colonial rule of the Western world. Its oppressors grew wealthy, but its victims still live in poverty.

Haiti is a notable case. And its complete devastation offers the historical offenders a chance to create a special fund to help the victims. It could be called the Historical Compensation Fund. When the victims of colonial rule are struck with a natural disaster, such a fund could be used for reconstruction, and human civilization could take yet another step forward.

But the progress of civilization is not just the duty of the colonizers. Any country that has received global help must take a part. Korea is one of them. Moreover, Korea is the chair country of this year’s G-20 summit.

And Korea is not doing its part.

The 119 Rescue Squad was late to be dispatched to Haiti and early to leave. The French rescue team remained in the field and saved a girl 15 days after the earthquake. Initially, the government offered to contribute a sum of money that cannot even buy an apartment in the Gangnam region.

The Korean president was the first head of state to give a speech at the Davos Forum. What inspiration did he give to the people of Haiti as the chair of the G-20 summit? High-ranking officials are quick to celebrate but slow to help. There are many who take credit for hosting the G-20 summit, but few to step up to lead the relief for Haiti.

Korea accomplished its progress with the help of the people around the world. It warded off the communist invasion and achieved miracles of industrialization and democratization. President Lee Myung-bak emphasized in his New Year’s address that Korea must expand overseas development aid and peacekeeping operations to enhance its international accountability.

Money and forces are necessary, but they should be based on awareness. If the government had the right mindset, the 119 Rescue Squad would not have been so late, the president would not have been so careless and the officials would not have been so indifferent.

*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin

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