[Viewpoint] Three illusions about the North

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[Viewpoint] Three illusions about the North

For the Republic of Korea, its citizens’ approaches toward North Korea are extremely important because individual members’ views will eventually form the community’s attitude. If this view goes wrong, the existence of the country is at risk. And there are three fallacies that will drive the country toward that risk. The first is blind support of the North, the second is a pro-Pyongyang approach and the third is unconditionally following the North.

The first misstep is turning a blind eye to the North’s evil deeds, such as human rights violations and sponsoring of terrorism. A classic example would be the leftists’ attitude toward the North’s sinking of the warship Cheonan. On June 29, 2010, the Democratic United Party opposed the National Assembly resolution to condemn the North’s sinking of the Cheonan. Although evidence of the torpedo was discovered and almost all countries around the world condemned the North, the largest opposition party ignored the incident.

DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan also said recently that the North Korea human rights bill, sponsored by the government and the ruling party, does not show diplomatic courtesy toward another country. He said it would amount to interference into the internal affairs of another country.

This is blind support for the North. Some went so far as to say they could not believe in the political prisons in the North because they have not seen them with their own eyes.

The second step is perceiving various problems in the North with rose-tinted glasses. A pro-North person interprets the problems of the North with the point of view of a person from inside the North. They say the North’s nuclear arms development, third-generation power succession and political prisons are somewhat understandable when you think of them from the internal perspectives of the North. Such a theory supports the “sunshine policy” of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations.

Recently, some lawmakers of the Unified Progressive Party and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions have used that approach.

Representative Lee Sang-kyu of the UPP said he does not agree with the North’s nuclear arms programs, but we have to try to understand the North’s situation. “We have to take into account that the North has long been placed in a position of military confrontation by having been oppressed by the global superpower the United States and isolated,” he said in an interview with Media Today. At a glance, Lee’s argument appeared to be convincing, but it ignored the North’s historical responsibility and past provocations. It is not the United States that prompted the military tensions, but North Korea when it started the Korean War. It is not the United States that threatens the world with terrorism and provocations, but North Korea.

In another media interview, UPP Representative Lee Seok-gi talked about the North’s third-generation power succession. “I agree with [German dissident] Prof. Song Du-yul’s imminent approach. President Lee Myung-bak was provoking the North by lecturing the North Korean regime and its new leader.”

Of course, the imminent approach is necessary in some cases. The classic example is the police analysis into a suspect’s psychology. But the approach still requires the respect for universal values such as human rights and morality.

Just because we understand the desire of Adolf Hitler and the situation of Germany at the time, we cannot accept the Holocaust. We will never be able to tolerate Japan’s wartime sexual slavery of Korean women by taking into account the imperialism of Japan and the Japanese military’s sexual desire.

An analysis can use the imminent approach, but countermeasures should be objective and comprehensive. Without the distinction, resolving the problem will be at risk. Let’s say that a man who raped his daughter is diagnosed as having unusual sexual perversion. Even if we understand his condition by using an imminent approach, will we be able to accept his behavior? Understanding is an issue, but countermeasures are still necessary. He should be locked up and an electronic anklet should be placed on him.

The same logic applies to the North. Its nuclear arms program must be ended.

The pro-North ideas will evolve into an unconditional following of the North’s beliefs. The UPP has long argued for the dissolution of the Korea-U.S. alliance and the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea under the party platform. The Revolutionary Party for People and Democracy, once made up of UPP lawmakers Lee Seok-gi and Lee Sang-kyu, among others, was a group that followed the philosophy of Kim Il Sung.

DUP Representative Lim Soo-kyung was able to call a North Korean defector a traitor because she was following Pyongyang’s policy on defectors.

We pass through youth, middle age and elderly stages as we move toward death. The three stages of the fallacies are dangerous because they can also take the same steps. Blind support for the North will eventually turn into following the North, and in the end, we may agree to unification under the North’s philosophy.

A dam can burst from a small hole. Blind support for the North should be avoided and pro-North approaches should be criticized to prevent South Korean society from following the North.

We must try to lead the North to change, but its evils must be tackled directly. That is the right path for the survival of both Koreas.


*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin


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