[Viewpoint] Craziness behind Dokdo debate

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[Viewpoint] Craziness behind Dokdo debate

Korea University and Yonsei University are widely regarded as the top two private comprehensive universities in the country. Accordingly, they have a strong sense of rivalry.

Kim Yu-na, who is a current Korea University student, won the gold medal with a world-record score in women’s figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Her victory was celebrated around the world and brought much attention to her home country.

Needless to say, Korea University was quite pleased. It published an advertisement featuring the tagline “Korea University - Kim Yu-na” in all the papers, a move which did not brighten the day at all for Yonsei University and its alumni.

Which professional sports star does Yonsei University have to boast about? Pro-golfer Shin Ji-yai? She is enrolled in the Department of Physical Education at Yonsei. Although she is at the top of the world of golf, she is helpless in the face of the skyrocketed popularity of Kim Yu-na.

When Korea University people swagger around, telling everybody “Kim Yu-na is a Korea University student,” how do Yonsei University people react? They cast about desperately and say something like: “We have no MB,” referring to one of Korea University’s more prominent alumni.

I recently heard the joke at an unofficial occasion. I guess they absolutely detest President Lee Myung-bak to the degree that they boast of the fact that he never attended Yonsei University.

Things have gone wobbly if the Republic of Korea is simply divided into pro-Lee Myung-bak and anti-Lee Myung-bak factions.

Yet, of course, it is natural that the joke has gained currency all over the county. Perhaps, those whose positions are stuck in the middle as well as those who hate President Lee will laugh at the joke.

In many cases, emotion takes precedence over logic.

At first, opponents try to have sufficient evidence to verify the base of their hatred. However, in later stages of the anti-Lee pathology, opponents begin backbiting without good reason. These people are well positioned to start a political fire.

“A mother-in-law scolds a daughter-in-law by saying that the backs of her feet are shaped like eggs,” a Korean adage goes. Former President Roh Moo-hyun was also criticized by people who insisted that the backs of his feet were also shaped like eggs. Even a novel titled “It’s all his fault” was published at the end of the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

President Lee Myung-bak’s reported remarks about Dokdo, which are a hot topic in cyberspace in recent days, can be understood in the same way.

When Japan’s prime minister at the time, Yasuo Fukuda, met with President Lee in Toyako, Japan, on July 9, 2008, he reportedly said, “I have no choice but to refer to Takeshima as a Japanese territory in new teaching manuals for middle school teachers.” President Lee allegedly did not protest, only telling Fukuda that “the timing was not right” and asking Japan to “wait.”

As a result, President Lee Myung-bak is in the middle of a crisis. When the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun published a report about Lee’s supposed remarks on July 15, 2008, the Blue House vehemently denied the report, as did the Japanese government. Yomiuri soon removed the article from its Web site.

However, 1,886 plaintiffs claimed in a suit that the mass-circulation daily’s “groundless report” had infringed upon Korea’s sovereignty over the Dokdo islets and the self-esteem of Koreans. They demanded monetary compensation and a correction.

A trial is currently underway.

Opposition parties have put pressure on the Lee Myung-bak administration to resolve this issue as the controversy burns unabated in cyberspace. The Blue House has said that “the issue resolution process has come to an end, as [the report] has been confirmed as groundless.”

The core of the issue is this: Whether President Lee admitted Japan’s claim for its sovereignty over Dokdo. Of course, the lawsuit should find whether or not Lee, indeed, made the remarks.

However, I bet that the president was unlikely to have said, “Alright. You may publish Japan’s claim for its sovereignty over Dokdo in Japanese textbooks,” unless he is an idiot. It would lead to the demise of his political career.

After all, it was Lee who announced to the public that self-defense training was being conducted around Dokdo by the naval forces and the Korea Coast Guard and the Air Force.

This happened right after the Yomiuri released the concerned article.

Lee is well aware of Dokdo’s strategic importance. Nevertheless, negative public opinion is spreading like wildfire, as if Lee had sold Dokdo to Japan. He might want to take off his socks to show the back of his feet. A vice spokesperson of the Democratic Party served as an agent filing the lawsuit, and opposition politicians continue to criticize Lee.

This is a mistake.

If they distrust President Lee, they should have attacked him by resorting to other means. In the long term, this may be the result of a political calculation by opposition politicians to get the advantage in elections by manipulating public sentiment against Japan. Why should the Republic of Korea merely dance to the foreign media?

It would be much better if a novel titled “It is all MB’s fault” is published.

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

By Noh Jae-hyun
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