[Viewpoint] Time for real response, not rhetoricIt is a tragedy to see South Korea seemingly unable to do anything other than spew rhetoric after North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23.
The bombing mercilessly destroyed people’s homes and community buildings. Just eight months ago, the South Korean naval ship Cheonan sank in the same sea after a torpedo attack and 46 sailors died.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was firm in his response to the North’s war-provoking act, immediately after the island was under attack, but at the same time, he said South Korea did not want to stage a war.
What kind of empty words did he utter? That is the tragedy for all South Korean people. North Korea knows South Korea’s limits, and its evil regime has used this knowledge to commit criminal acts. Since the Korean War cease-fire in 1953, North Korean violations of the truce agreement have been frequent, but no real punishment has been imposed.
And what has the United Nations done to punish such a regime? North Korea is still a member of the United Nations. Isn’t the UN supposed to be a civilized international organization? Where is the international tribunal for peace and justice?
Meanwhile, China has supported the North Korean regime all the way since the Korean War. Russia, another close ally to North Korea, has been relatively distant, but it is still close to the North. China just endorsed Kim’s kingdom in North Korea.
This time, China can decide the level of punishment the North should receive because of its position on the UN Security Council. Under the circumstances, China has expressed its “concern,” not condemnation. What kind of concern? Sympathy over North Korea’s brutal attacks on a peaceful South Korean fishing village does not make sense.
Here at home, if South Korea does not have the will to retaliate, barbarian acts by the North will continue. U.S. forces are not anxious to engage in a large-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, especially because of its engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. South Korea should learn a lesson from Israel, which is surrounded by hostile neighboring nations. The eye-to-eye, or tooth-to-tooth, approach is one and diplomacy is another. In a chaotic or lawless international community, the former should precede the latter.
In the past 10 years, the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations “spoiled” the North Korean regime. North Korea learned a precious lesson that the more barking on their part, the more money comes from the South.
All policymaking should be based on a realistic cost-benefit analysis. President Kim was going by the policy that his astronomical financial subsidies and aid to the North would deter a war on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is now trying to guide the current South Korean government to repeat the earlier administrations’ North Korea policy.
President Lee should not return to the other administrations’ policy of wishful thinking. He should stand firm and prepare for a real war, not a rhetorical one. If he is determined, then North Korea will learn to refrain from its brutal acts. The South Korean people should also back up Lee’s firm stance toward North Korea.
Unfortunately, the opposition party has been pro-North Korea. Many South Korean people are also sympathetic to the North Korean regime under the guise of nationalism.
One of my old friends, the former president of a distinguished university in Seoul and a former presidential cabinet member, told me that another war would awaken the South Korean people. Now we’re close to another war, like the one he talked about.
The opposition Democratic Party blamed the South Korean military in the North Korean attack on the Cheonan warship and was reluctant to accuse the North Koreans of the attack. Now it is condemning the North’s regime. I am surprised that it has now formulated a sensible response for the first time in a long while.
When I was a young army lieutenant in Korea in the 1960s, I was ready to fight any North Korean aggression. All South Korean soldiers and people must be ready to fight back against North Korea. If not, we will be under constant attack from the North.
Take up your arms, South Koreans, and be ready to fight. This is the only way to confront the North Korean regime and win.
I vividly remember the movie, “The Guns of Navarone” (1961), in which a British team is sent out to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy a massive German gun emplacement that commanded a key channel in World War II. I want to see “The Guns of Yeonpyeong” this year, in which a brave Korean special team infiltrates the North Korean artillery posts along the coastline. The mission will be quite effective in destroying the North Korean artillery bases, so that no more shells are fired at Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong.
*The writer is a political scientist educated at Yonsei University and Indiana University.
By Yearn Hong Choi