[Viewpoint] Looking for a re-rebuttalKyungnam University Professor Kim Geun-sik is a scholar of North Korean studies with active research and publishing activities. He is a prominent theorist of the “Sunshine Policy” promoted by the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. He was also a member of the delegation to Pyongyang for the inter-Korean summit in 2007.
In December 2011, Professor Ahn Cheol-soo, who is widely considered the most promising liberal presidential hopeful, received two lectures by Kim on North Korean affairs. On the sinking of the Cheonan warship, Kim said that once the offender dies, the indictment authority expires and the case should be closed, so the death of Kim Jong-il marks the conclusion of the incident. By disclosing what he told Ahn to the media, Kim virtually spoke out to the world.
I found this to be a serious problem and criticized his view in my column published on Jan. 16. If he claims that responsibility for the attack on the Cheonan is absolved with the death of Kim Jong-il, he is threatening the justice sought not only by Korea but also by all of humanity.
The sinking of the Cheonan was an organized crime orchestrated not by Kim Jong-il as an individual but by the North Korean regime and its military. Therefore, the indictment authority remains valid against the entire group even if Kim himself is dead.
Without valid indictment authority, the case cannot be concluded. It is a universal practice in the international community to hold an organization accountable for its crimes even after the death of its leader. The war criminals of Nazi Germany were convicted after the death of Hitler, and Al Qaeda is still condemned for the Sept. 11 terror attacks after Osama bin Laden’s death. Japanese Emperor Hirohito may be dead, but Japan is still responsible for war crimes and sex slavery.
Once I raised this criticism, Professor Kim countered on Jan. 17 that it was the Lee Myung-bak administration, not him, that pointed fingers at Kim Jong-il as the mastermind of the Cheonan incident. He argued that in order to find him responsible for the incident, the accomplices associated with the attack need to be specifically named and investigated.
However, Kim is not aware of Lee Myung-bak Administration’s investigation report. The administration has already named North Korea’s General Staff of the Army, the General Bureau of Reconnaissance and the Submarine Unit.
Kim overlooked this fact and blames the Lee Myung-bak administration. Moreover, even if the government did not specify who was involved, it is common sense that the attack on the Cheonan is a crime orchestrated by the North Korean regime as a group.
Kim continued to argue that Seoul and Pyongyang need a working relationship in order to punish those responsible for the attack aside from Kim Jong-il and that he had only been emphasizing dialogue. But he virtually countered his initial argument. He originally claimed that the case was closed, so why does he mention punishing others?
Also, does he really believe that discussing punishment of the offenders would actually help the inter-Korean talks? Rather than repeating his self-contradicting rhetoric, he’d better advise the government to say, “Pyongyang is not relieved of accountability for the Cheonan incident just because Kim Jong-il is dead, but for the sake of inter-Korean dialogue, the case would not be mentioned for now.”
But Kim did not respond to my counter argument. Instead, Choi Jun-taek, who had been the deputy chief of the North Korean desk for the National Intelligence Service, detailed his observations in the Jan. 21 issue. He had overseen North Korean intelligence affairs for two years from 2004 to 2006 under the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
He supported Kim’s claim, as it was an approach based on a realistic understanding that there is little possibility for the North Korean leadership to apologize. Does he want to say the indictment authority should abandon holding them accountable for all crimes if the offender is not willing to apologize?
Another important point in the dispute is what Ahn thinks. Kim claims that Ahn agreed with his position. If that is true, I am worried about Ahn’s perspective on national security and North Korean affairs. Ahn must explain whether he actually agrees with Kim or if Kim made a risky and faulty claim.
Opinion polls indicate that Ahn is a front runner in the next presidential election. It is the duty of a public figure of his status to answer to the people.
Hopefully, this ongoing debate will make more people realize the substance of the problem. I am ready to point out how Kim’s views are threatening the universal values of the Republic of Korea and all of humanity. Kim needs to speak for himself instead of letting others defend him.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin