[Letters] The Traits of an Audacious Diplomat
It is refreshing to see someone of a prominent statue with the courage to make a statement, reflecting the sentiment of the older generation who lived through the savage of Korean War.
While in the capital of Vietnam, the Korean foreign minister, Yu Myung-Hwan offered a statement referring to young people who like North Korea so much, should go to the North and live under its regime, according to the Korea Times, has caused uproar in the news and unfortunately became a political liability.
It is no doubt that South Korea thrives in a democratic society with unprecedented freedom. Many are quick to be critical to those who have opposing views to the degree that there seems to be no room for spirited discussion and exploring the truth.
Different political parties wasted no time to call for his dismissal or resignation, a theme all too familiar in Korean politics. While everyone is certainly entitled to his or her opinion in a true democracy; however, nothing can be further from the truth.
There is no word or verbiage that can replace the raw experience and first-hand account of the living conditions in a secretive police society in which life necessities and opportunities are extremely limited and the freedom to speak, assembly, and enjoy the fruits of own labor is pretty much non-existent.
The remark speaks to the fact that there is no justice and freedom in North Korea while challenging the young people to dig deep to see the brutality and oppression that the citizens of North Korea are subject to, which none of us in the free world would accept. His remark may seem raw and spontaneous, but it carries a ton of wisdom. It provides a rare dose of tough love and discipline that may seem unpalatable to some.
To the foreign minister, Yu Myung?Hwan, there should be many thanks for having the audacity to say what many people have wanted to say but their saying so would not carry the same weight and receive the attention it deserves.
Concurrence of his remark does not make light of the opinion of the opposing view. In fact, the outcome should promote spirited discussion, rather than scoring political points.
Young people should be encouraged and challenged to search for the truth to see the immoral, ruthless and unjust activities the communist regime imposes upon its population no matter how hurtful the facts may be to the pride of Korean ethnicity.
It is appalling to see hundreds of thousands of North Koreans risking their lives plotting and attempting to escape their birthplace, leaving family members and loved ones behind for a chance to live in a free world where uncertainties and unknown are abound. They will have to rely on the goodwill of their newly adopted country to provide them with the initial support. Naturally, most would end up living in the South, where they share a common language.
However, that is not to say they will not endure the culture shock and experience the subtle discrimination in the new environment.
They will not have the consolation and support of the neighbors and relatives that they grew up and relied on, no matter how meager and tenuous that support system might be.
But the close-knit unit that they have known is no longer there. The thought of its non-existence can be very daunting. Yet it does not stop them from escaping.
It is important to note that the foreign minister has partly contributed to the simultaneous visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, all-out support of the U.S. ally on the international stage, and the adept political maneuvering at the United Nations Security Council for the condemnation of the Cheonan incident.
Nonetheless, all of his accomplishments were ephemeral. It is a fact of life that people tend to remember the last offense better than all else. Korean are forgiving people, but have very little tolerance toward politicians’ insensitivity.
Let’s not forget the oppressed in the North as they are yearning for us who have the means to speak up and are not afraid to confront their oppressor.
Living in a free world, sometimes we do things without giving a second thought, knowing that our rights are fully protected.
In this instance, it is debatable as to whether the young people or the foreign minister who really got precarious.
The remark may not meet the political correctness criteria, but some credit should be given to Yu Myung-Hwan for having the courage to do so.
It is conceivable that the North is watching with great interest all the ruckus and political drama playing out in the South, knowing that they still have a formidable ally in the young activists who have command of the media mouthpiece that is as powerful as the rhetoric and weapons that it constantly threatens to use against those who are critical of its regime.
It is with hope that the Vietnamese government and the world take notice of his statement to see how relevant it was to millions of Vietnamese refugees who had chosen to leave the country, validating the foreign minister’s assertion.
Steve Truong, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland University College.