[Viewpoint] A poet who admired QaddafiKim Il Sung and Fidel Castro share the world record for longest dictatorial rule - 49 years. Muammar el-Qaddafi was the only living dictator who could have broken the record. But his autocratic rule of Libya ended after 42 years. He died in the most gruesome way among the dictators since the 20th century. Neither Nicolae Ceausescu nor Saddam Hussein were dragged around and manhandled before their deaths. Qaddafi must be waiting for the judgment before the thousands of Libyans he had killed.
In 1979, 10 years after he seized power in a military coup, Qaddafi received international spotlight. Since the mid-1970s, he led anti-American and anti-Israeli hard-line policies. In 1979, protestors supporting Qaddafi set the U.S. embassy in Tripoli on fire. In the following year, the United States severed diplomatic relations and included Libya on the list of terrorism-supporting countries. Since January 1979, over 100 North Korean pilots have participated in a flight training program for Soviet MiG fighters in Libya. The New York Times report brought the Arab country to the attention of Koreans.
In the late 1980s, the anti-American and anti-Israeli movement led to more bloody incidents. In 1985, guerrillas attacked Israeli planes in Rome and Vienna simultaneously, killing 17 people. In April 1986, a nightclub in West Berlin frequented by U.S. soldiers was bombed. U.S. President Ronald Reagan called Qaddafi “the mad dog of the Middle East” and ordered retaliatory airstrikes on the capital of Tripoli. The official residence of Qaddafi was destroyed, and his adopted daughter was killed.
Qaddafi struck back fiercely. In December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York was destroyed by a bomb in Scottish airspace. The bombing resulted in 270 deaths. The United States suspected Qaddafi to be behind the plot, which was revealed to be true a few years later. One year before the Pan Am bombing, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il bombed Korean Air Flight 858 and killed 115 people. Between 1986 and 1988, the world map was stained with the blood of Qaddafi and Kim Il Sung’s terrorism.
In January 1989, poet Ko Un contributed a column titled “Dear Colonel Muammar Qaddafi” in the Hankyoreh newspaper. He criticized America’s attack on Qaddafi. “You could have been killed by Reagan Rambo last year .?.?. The United States needs to restore its morals [away from] the wicked hegemony of the world’s police ... The U.S. Navy aircraft shot down a Libyan aircraft because Libya was producing chemical weapons when it has more chemical weapons.”
Ko Un also criticized the Team Spirit drill, a joint military training exercise between the United States and South Korea. He called the tear-gas bomb “the evil of Korea not different from chemical weapons.”
Ko Un defended and glorified Qaddafi. “I understand your eccentricity of keeping the colonel’s rank in an inspiring way.” The column was written when Qaddafi had ruled Libya for 20 years. He criticized the 18-year rule of Park Chung Hee but rated the 20-year rule of a terrorist dictator in a friendly way. He kept silent on the terrorism of Qaddafi and Kim Jong-il but condemned America’s retribution and the Korea-U.S. joint military drill.
Two years ago, Ko Un completed “Ten Thousand Lives.” It is a saga about 3,000 Koreans written over 23 years. However, the life and literature of Ko Un never paid attention to the pain of 20 million North Koreans. In an interview two years ago, he said, “There is no way of knowing the reality of the North Koreans based on partial stories and rumors, unless I personally visit the scene.” He called the testimonies of countless defectors, video clips and photographs “rumors.”
Qaddafi ordered a bombing of a civilian airliner and killed 270 people. He ordered the killing of hundreds of political prisoners and buried them. He ordered airstrikes on protestors calling him to step down. Will Ko Un say he wouldn’t know about the autocratic rule of Qaddafi because he was not there personally? Does he still believe that Qaddafi is a friendly leader with a colonel’s rank?
Two years ago, he said, “Changes are the truth.” He said he was not the same person he was 10 years ago. It’s about time he explained who he was 22 years ago, when he glorified Qaddafi. He has to clarify who he was then and who he is now.
*The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin