Errant lessons from an errant scholar

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Errant lessons from an errant scholar

Opinion polls suggest that Professor Ahn Cheol-soo is the front-runner in the race to the Blue House with Park Geun-hye. He is reportedly learning about North Korean affairs and security and social issues to prepare for his presidential candidacy. If he receives lessons, he should get a proper education from an orthodox professor with a straight perspective. However, the North Korean lessons from Professor Kim Geun-sik of Kyungnam University are very worrisome. Kim is a theorist of the “sunshine policy” and a member of the delegation for the inter-Korean summit in 2007. Ahn Cheol-soo met with Kim twice in December.

On the sinking of the naval vessel Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, Kim reportedly said that once the offender dies, the indictment authority expires and the case should be closed, and therefore, the death of Kim Jong-il marks the conclusion of these incidents. Kim told the media that Ahn agreed with him. The lapse of indictment authority, however, is completely wrong historically, legally, politically and militarily. If Ahn assents to this view, he has a serious problem in his perspective on history and security.

The attack on the Cheonan is a terror attack committed not by Kim Jong-il as an individual but by North Korea as a state. Accountability for crimes like wars, terror attacks and kidnappings committed by a country or an organization does not disappear just because the leader has died. The successor inherits the responsibility for the state along with authority. Adolf Hitler committed suicide, but Germany was not free from its war crimes. In the Palace of Justice installed in Nuremberg by the victorious Allied forces, 12 war criminals were sentenced to death. The war criminals of Germany went on trial for proper judgment. Just because Kim Il Sung died in 1994, is North Korea free from responsibility for the abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s?

In 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had a meeting with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang and asked North Korea to take responsibility. Kim Jongil apologized for the abductions and sent some of those kidnapped back home. And yet, even as Kim Jong-un became the new leader of the regime, Tokyo continues to press Pyongyang to resolve the abduction issue. International terrorist organization Al Qaeda is responsible for the September 11 terror attacks, and its leader Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Did Washington exempt Al Qaeda from responsibility just because bin Laden was killed?

If you think Kim Jong-il’s death means the indictment authority has expired, it would be the absence of basic reasoning to distinguish an individual from a state. Realistically, it is a very shabby idea. When Pyongyang orchestrated the attacks on the Cheonan and Yeonpyoeng Island, Kim Jong-un was already the heir apparent. How can we be sure he was not involved in the plot? Without his involvement, the North Korean regime is still responsible. If he took a part in the plot, it would be a graver problem.

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