[Viewpoint] Dancing a delusional tangoFormer U.S. President Jimmy Carter is on a visit to Pyongyang. When it comes to Korean Peninsula affairs, Carter appears to look at a half side of the world. He denounced the development- and patriotism-driven dictatorship but spared criticism on the corruption and hereditary power succession of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il.
Once again, he won’t look through the cruel truth of the three-generation power succession. Moreover, he is infatuated with the fantasy of serving as a peacemaker and is likely to dance to Kim Jong-il’s whistle of a disguised gesture of peace.
In the 1970s, President Park Chung Hee was fighting against two enemies, North Korea and poverty. He protected Korea against the North Korean threat with the Korea-U.S. alliance and established a solid economy with dictatorship focused on development. Yet, Carter, the leader of the ally, put two daggers - withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Korea and the human rights concerns - against Park.
Pulling out the U.S. forces from Korea was a dangerous game that threatened the existence of the allied nation. But right after he came into power, Carter aggressively pursued withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea. In addition, he demanded Park release anti-government figures.
Until then, Washington’s overseas human rights policy was quite realistic. The United States criticized human rights oppression in the communist bloc while reserving criticism against inevitable dictatorships in developing allies. Carter pursued just the opposite. His human rights foreign policy was a chaotic dance. He publicly denounced human rights violations in allies, including South Korea.
Yet, he never openly pressed on human rights conditions in communist countries such as the Soviet Union and China. Carter’s unrealistic human rights foreign policy led to unfavorable consequences for the United States. Iran had been a strong anti-communist ally but the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty and installed an extremist anti-American rule under Ayatollah Khomeini.
In the late 1970s, North Korea’s threat to the South was direct and real. In April 1975, South Vietnam fell. Kim Il Sung augmented armaments and tested the Korea-U.S. alliance with a shocking provocation. In 1976, North Korean soldiers murdered U.S. Army officers with axes at Panmunjom. Nevertheless, Carter pressured Park Chung Hee, rather than Kim Il Sung. Withdrawal of the U.S. forces did not actually happen - due to strong domestic and overseas opposition - but four years of the Carter administration was a painful time for Park Chung Hee and Koreans.
In 1994, Pyongyang declared its intention to pursue nuclear development and the Korean Peninsula was faced with a serious crisis. Carter visited Pyongyang at the invitation of Kim Il Sung. The meeting opened a door for negotiation between Pyongyang and Washington as well as the inter-Korean summit meeting. Carter still boasts that his visit to Pyongyang became a breakthrough of the crisis.
However, in the end, it was not a breakthrough. North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program but it has been revealed that it stealthily continued nuclear development using uranium enrichment. Kim Il Sung used Carter to escape the U.N. sanction and earned valuable time and money for nuclear development. Of course, not just Carter, but the entire world was deceived. However, Carter was actively caught in a trap. If he hadn’t traveled to Pyongyang - and if the United Nations had effectively exercised sanctions - the situation would have been very different.
Just like the old days, Carter still appears to be on Pyongyang’s side. In his memoir, he claimed that in 1994, the U.S. was trying to take serious political and economic sanctions through the U.N. on a small, isolated, poor and mysterious communist country. The prime objective of the Carter Center is human rights but you can hardly find information about human rights infringement in North Korea at its Web site.
Since the sinking of the Cheonan, the Western community, the United States and South Korea are pressuring North Korea together. Standing on the edge, Kim Jong-il will try to use Carter just like his father had done. The Kim family and Carter have been dancing a delusional tango for generations.
Jimmy Carter had been a naval officer. When he arrives in the South after the Pyongyang visit, he may want to visit the National Cemetery, where the sailors of the Cheonan are buried. Carter must realize that the truth of the Korean Peninsula can be found from the graves of the 46 victims, not the smile on Kim Jong-il’s face. The realization would be an awakening for 87-year-old former president.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin