[Viewpoint] China distorts truth for own interests

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[Viewpoint] China distorts truth for own interests

They were relatively quiet in June, but boisterous in October. The Chinese government’s attitude toward the Korean War has changed drastically in less than half a year. In June, the conscientious non-mainstream historians made an attempt to make a new interpretation of the Korean War and it did not provoke much response from the Chinese government.

In contrast, in October, the Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping uproariously praised the Korean War as “great and just war for safeguarding peace and resisting aggression.” Beijing’s attitude toward the Korean War has changed as drastically as the temperature in June and October, and its frivolity makes many Koreans puzzled.

No matter what they say, it is considered as universally acknowledged common sense in the international community that North Korea made a surprise invasion of the South on June 25, 1950. Russian leader Joseph Stalin had approved Kim Il Sung’s war of aggression, and even Russia acknowledges the southward invasion.

The only countries asserting a different theory on how the Korean War had begun are North Korea and China. And we can exclude North Korea from this discussion since we cannot expect Pyongyang to behave with common sense.

Why does China use praises such as “great” and “just” to describe the tragic war that resulted in millions of deaths when it has vowed to become a responsible member of the international community? A straightforward reason is China’s own understanding of the Korean War. China perceives the Korean War as two separate wars, the “War of Joseon” and the “War to Resist America and Aid Korea.” The War of Joseon is a civil war between South and North Korea. Therefore, the current history textbook used in China avoids describing which side is responsible for starting the war. Instead, it simply states, “A civil war broke out in Korea.”

It is a result of the calculation that there would be no gain for China by taking a side with either the South or the North. China considers that the war of Joseon broke out on June 25 on the 38th parallel line and ended near the Amnok (Yalu) River in North Korea’s defeat.

Meanwhile, China thinks that a new war begun on Oct. 25 in the same year, as the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army crossed the Yalu River. The Chinese intervention marks the beginning of the War to Resist America and Aid Korea. Since the battle line started at the Yalu River and ended at the Demarcation Line in July 1953, China argues that the war ended in China’s victory.

Since China thinks that it had defeated the aggressor threatening the Northeast region of China, it advocates the Korean War as just and great. Such a perspective is contrary to the view many Koreans share. Koreans think that China deserves to be criticized for intervening in the war at its own discretion without the approval of the rightful owners of the Peninsula.

Looking at the Korean War as two separate wars became a mainstream theory in China several years ago; it is just that Koreans were not aware of it. It becomes very convenient to China if it divides the Korean War into two. If the conservatives in Korea condemn China, they would argue that what they called “just” was not the entire Korean War but just the part that belongs to the War to Resist America and Aid Korea. It will slip through the resistance and criticism from Korea by making the question irrelevant.

Just as the Monkey King in the Chinese epic novel “Journey to the West” transforms into different creatures, China is distorting truth and justice, making history take a different form. At the bottom of China’s transformation trick is a strong obsession to safeguard its own interests.

However, China might try all sorts of absurd rhetoric and tricks to present the truth in different packaging, yet they won’t be able to change the essence of the tragic war that killed millions. Frankly, I am worried about the Cheonan incident. Beijing is trying to see the aspects it wants to look at, and its perspective on the sinking of the Korean naval ship has a close resemblance to China’s perception of the Korean War. I am concerned how China might transform the Cheonan incident in the future.

*The writer is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Chang Se-jeong
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