[Viewpoint] The real enemy: Fear

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[Viewpoint] The real enemy: Fear

On the day of the North’s strike on Yeonpyeong Island, my daughter called me from her office. “Dad, do you think there will be a war?” she asked in a worried voice. “Probably not,” I replied. “It will end as a localized conflict.” As I answered, I was aware of an underlying fear in my mind. “What would happen if the strike escalates into a full-scale war? What would happen to Seoul and the economy?”

I was desperately hoping that the bombardment would end as a local skirmish. The Blue House must have felt the same when it telegraphed a rather cowardly message after the Cheonan incident. When the naval corvette sank in March, the government initially said there was no sign of North Korea’s involvement.

This time, the president ordered the military to prevent an escalation. The seemingly cowardly comments were due to fears of full-scale warfare. North Korea sees through how South Koreans feel. Pyongyang is basically blackmailing the South, telling us, “If you fear war and do not want Seoul to burn, you have to listen to us.” The rhetoric of appeasement starts from the argument that we have to prevent a war, and that means putting up with certain costs.

Becoming a powerful and prosperous nation is a goal shared by all countries. So countries strive to defend their national interests. The highest priority is the survival and preservation of the state. And then comes the task of making an economically strong country.

However, the priorities have somehow changed. Our greatest priority is now the economy. Even while the island was under fire, the first idea that came into many people’s minds was, “What will happen to the economy?” and not “What will happen to the people and the territory of the country?”

That idea is widespread even among those in the Blue House and in the defense establishment. Because they are more concerned about the economy than security, they cannot make proper responses. The destiny of a nation is beyond economic calculations. And true leadership comes from audacity and courage transcending mere calculation. The citizens will trust a leader who shows that type of leadership.

In the evening after the bombardment, I made a point of walking to City Hall on foot. As I looked at the dizzying skyscrapers and splendid neon lights, I wondered what would happen if shells fell on downtown streets. The possibility is real. Should we then give up on the economy and focus on security? No, we should steadfastly keep our places and do the very best.

Jacob Harpaz is the CEO of the IMC Group, an Israel-based metalworking company in which Warren Buffet is a major investor. In an interview, Harpaz said that he trusts the government would protect his company in any contingency. He added that it would be a waste of time for him to worry about a risk that businesses have no control over.

He is right, indeed. If companies have a strong sense of responsibility to keep their delivery timetables even during a bombardment, we do not have to fear a full-scale war. We should not build a glass castle that will collapse after a single strike. We need to build a fortress. An enemy attack might destroy one corner, but we should be able to protect ourselves elsewhere within the stronghold.

Fear is the real enemy. Once we feel fear, the war is already over. Fear will tie up our bodies and souls. Young David could defeat Goliath because he did not fear the giant. If he had been frightened and nervous, he wouldn’t have been able to strike Goliath in the forehead with a stone from his sling.

Courage is the opposite of fear. Bravery does not come from raising one’s voice and acting important. The pledge to crush an enemy attack in four minutes was not an expression of courage but a bluff. Courage is carrying out one’s duty quietly. In other words, courage comes from a sense of responsibility.

The president should fulfill his duty to protect the nation, and the military should carry out its duty to defend the country from enemy attacks. The businessmen need to keep the factories running and concentrate on production.

We do not need bluffs and exaggerations. True courage is faithfully and constantly focusing on your job.

China is siding with North Korea, and the U.S.S. George Washington joined a military exercise in the Yellow Sea. However, those are all secondary factors. The point is what we South Koreans think. If we are vigilant, the circumstances around us will fall into place accordingly.

Today, South Korea is 30 times stronger than North Korea. If we stand with a plow in one hand and a spear in the other, the national strength gap will grow to 200 times in a few years. Then, neither Kim Jong-il nor Beijing can help the situation. Let’s bide our time and do our jobs in our own places. Let’s show what true courage can do.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Moon Chang-keuk
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