[Viewpoint] Unification without fearAs I observe the North Korean people in news reports about the death of Kim Jong-il and his funeral, I feel so pitiful for them. They cried so hard, and some even collapsed. In an outdoor plaza in bitterly cold winter weather, they bowed their heads deeply. I don’t want to talk about whether their tears were real or not. They were slaves, they were robots. Is there any other regime in the world where humanity is so completely abused and ignored?
The so-called North Korean leaders up on the podium were also pitiful. What were they really thinking? They were probably also desperate looking for a means of survival. They all knew very well that their status would simply disappear if the regime was not sustained. They were also slaves of the system.
North Korea was a gigantic stage last week and everyone on view was playing his or her part. The world media was almost dumbfounded at the unique scenes. What can the world think of the Koreans? Because my brother’s weakness is also mine, we should also feel embarrassed to the point of shame.
After Kim died, discussions flowered in the South and abroad on whether the North would maintain its petrified stability or face a unique crisis. Everyone was wondering if Kim Jong-un would be able to successfully maintain the dynastic succession or whether his grip would start to crumble. Those who were concerned about a crisis focused on what would happen to the North’s nuclear arms programs and what would happen if there were an exodus of refugees. They all concluded that they wanted a stable Kim Jong-un regime.
Some even went so far to say there was an opportunity for inter-Korean dialogue. The Lee Myung-bak administration appeared to expect some changes in the North’s attitude. But that was just a chimera. As soon as the funeral was over, the North declared that no changes should be expected.
Will Kim Jong-il’s death really end as a mere performance on a stage?
The answer is no. We are undeniably one step closer to unification. But no one wants to say so. That’s because the tendency in our society is to regard talk about unification as being inherently hostile. I also want a stable North Korea and hope to see an opportunity for a peaceful unification of the two Koreas. But no one can tell the future. A forecast must have a basis in rational judgments. But in history, how many times have we seen rational predictions actually work? Was there anyone who made a rational forecast that the Soviet Union would fall? Did anyone ever guess there would be a leader like Mikhail Gorbachev to lead reform that, ultimately, killed his own regime?
One thing became very clear as we watched the funeral of Kim Jong-il. The North Korean system won’t be able to go on as it is. The night is the darkest right before sunrise. The sun is about to rise now, but we can’t see it because we are blinded by the darkness.
Now is the time to raise the flag of unification. I am not saying we should provoke the North to stir up conflict. No matter where the North goes, we have to prepare for unification. All policies must be adjusted for unification. The people may question our ability to pay attention to unification because we have plenty of other problems such as youth unemployment, a widening wealth gap, welfare and education needs.
I am only saying that resolving problems in the South properly will be the groundwork for unification. Will the North Koreans want to unite with us when they see the extreme wealth gap in South Korean society? Would they want to live in a country where college graduates are jobless? Will they trust the South when its national debt soars from reckless welfare spending? We have to make the South a healthy nation to make the North Koreans have hope.
And we must never recoil from the North Koreans’ starvation. It is only right to provide food to those suffering from hunger. But man does not live on bread alone. We have to pay attention to the human dignity of the North Korean people as well.
When North Koreans’ hopes reside in the South, not in China, we will have our unification. When a country has no goal, a backward-looking culture of cynicism, mockery and sarcasm prevails. When a goal is established, a forward-looking, active culture prospers to achieve the goal. When we have the frontier of North Korea to explore, the culture and mindset of our youngsters will change.
Only 50 years after the First Zionist Congress adopted the Basel Declaration to “establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law,” the modern state of Israel was founded. A country that disappeared from history for 2,000 years was reborn based on a single declaration.
Let us think about our national anthem. “Three thousand ri of splendid rivers and mountains filled with Roses of Sharon; Great Korean people, stay true to the Great Korean way!” the lyrics say. We have inherited the 3,000 ri (732 miles) of splendid rivers and mountains. Only just 60 years ago, we were the great Korean people living together in this splendid country.
The Jewish people built a country that had disappeared. We are trying to restore a country in which we lived together for 5,000 years.
When we declare Korean unification without fear, unification is guaranteed in our future.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Moon Chang-keuk