[Viewpoint] Six mysteries about the Koreas

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[Viewpoint] Six mysteries about the Koreas

“The late emperor was as wise as the sun and moon and his subordinates’ deftness as deep as the pond. And peace was attained after long hardship. Your majesty is not so wise and your aides not as skilled. Yet how you can hope for victory from mere brooding and daydreaming is the first mystery that is even incomprehensible to the gods.”

Zhuge Liang, lauded as the greatest military strategist and statesman in ancient China during the Three Kingdoms period, listed six things the gods cannot know in a rhetorical scolding of the incompetent and slothful emperor and his royal court.

If a man of great wisdom like Zhuge Liang could not understand entirely how a state is run, the realm of governance should be a complete mystery to a man of mediocrity like me.

What mystifies me most, however, is how a self-glorified dynasty that defied Marxist traditions to deify state founder Kim Il Sung justifies itself as a socialist heaven, or how a supposed champion of the Korean race continuously threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”

What wise man or book - make that an entire library! - can possibly explain this kind of distorted ideology and nationalism? Even the banished eldest son of Kim Jong-il decries the third-generation succession in the ruling family as a sacrilege to socialism.

The second puzzle is how a law to help promote human rights in North Korea - designed to save North Korean citizens from fear, physical abuse and a total lack of civic freedoms - remains stuck in the legislature because its members do not want to annoy the regime in Pyongyang.

Can a society call itself just, peace-loving, fair and decent when all it’s concerned about is a maverick leader and ignores 24 million people suffering under his rule? Or is there a self-serving motive to position itself as a government “engaging” the North by defending its dictatorship?

The third question is why the so-called proponents of peace, who call our military’s regular defense drills provocations of war, keep mum against the terrorists in the North who regularly threaten to drop atomic bombs over the South?

The fourth question is why we don’t hear any condemnation, or even words of alarm, about North Korea’s reckless nuclear weapons program even after two nuclear weapons tests and a uranium enrichment program that could have contaminated our seas and atmosphere, all while panic over our own nuclear reactors’ safety has been loud and fear of radiation from Japan was instantaneous?

Is it that we have so much faith in North Korea’s ability to contain the hazards of nuclear technology because of its brilliant technical know-how? Or is it because we, once again, are too cowardly to speak out in the fear of annoying the North Korean regime?

The fifth question is how this government expects to overpower North Korea with its advanced talent in both provocations and diplomacy with a retro strategy relying on propaganda balloons and loudspeakers, let alone plan for the long-term goal of unification?

The final mystery for me is how North Korea can manage to remain so stubbornly insulated from the movements for democracy and civil rights in despotic states across North Africa and the Middle East. Even China is jittery about that.

No matter how reclusive it may be, a society cannot be that thoroughly controlled and blinded. Tyranny can exact resistance. Yet resistance, as witnessed in the Libyan strongman’s massacre of his own people, can lead to a bloodbath.

Why is it that no politicians in this country stands up to speak and fight for North Korean residents suffering from extreme poverty and political tyranny? It is a shameful mystery that these people call themselves representatives when all they do is fight among themselves over seats.

Of course, we common people cannot understand such complicated affairs that even the great and wise strategist Zhuge Liang could not entirely comprehend. But I do know and believe one thing: The tyrannical regime will one day perish and North Korean citizens will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

*The writer is a partner of Hwang Mok Park, P.C. and a former head of the Seoul Central District Court.


By Lee Woo-keun
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