Blown down by a north wind

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Blown down by a north wind

The Cheonan case poses a dilemma for the left, caught between the need for bipartisanship to address the security crisis and the haunting memory of North Korea turning the tide in elections. Liberals have reason to fear a “North Korean wind,” whether natural or artificial.

During the 1987 presidential election campaign, a North Korean terrorist attack on a Korean Air passenger jet hit opposition candidates Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung hard. Ten years later, the Agency for National Security Planning attempted to cook up a northerly wind by claiming candidate Kim Dae-jung received political funds from North Korea. The opposition weathered that fake storm well.

But now a new wind blows from the North, and the opposition must steer a careful course between its hope for reconciliation and the reality that we are still technically at war. If it keeps its eyes on reality and is guided by reason, it will be able to ride out the turbulence. But so far, its approach to the crisis has been disappointing. It has denied North Korea’s role from the beginning, even as evidence turns against them.

Representative Kim Hyo-suk, who chairs the Democratic Party’s special fact-finding committee on the Cheonan case and leads the resistance against the northerly wind, said that the party won’t accept the conclusions of a joint civilian-military team to be released Thursday because the team was led by the government. Why did the party recommend a member in the first place? The team has civilian and military experts, including specialists from the United States, Australia and Sweden. How can it be branded as government-led? Does the party also suspect the foreign community?

Rhyu Si-min, aide of the late President Roh Moo-hyun and opposition candidate for Gyeonggi governor in the June 2 elections, claimed reports of an attack on the Cheonan were fiction. The investigation team tentatively concluded the Cheonan was sunk by external explosives, but Rhyu still claimed it was a conspiracy. He then attacked the government, saying the authorities must be accountable if North Korea is found to have been involved. He blamed the government, not the party that actually carried out the attack.

Voters will determine whether this is a conspiracy or liberals are simply shaking in fear from a real northern threat. The Cheonan crisis is already a turning point for inter-Korean relations. It will be another tragedy if we allow it to divide our society - exactly what the enemy wants. The government and ruling party, too, must not be tempted to use this political momentum. If the team on Thursday exaggerates the findings, they will bring friction in society and scorn from the global community. All sides must accept scientific evidence and let reason guide them.
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