Time for a miracle on the TaedongHistoric changes are taking place in the Korean Peninsula as neighboring countries begin to treat North Korea more sternly. Chinese President Xi Jinping gave the cold shoulder to Kim Jong-un’s special envoy, an unprecedented manner considering the blood-tie between the two countries. Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party, described Beijing’s relationship with North Korea as “ordinary state relations” to the South Korean National Assembly delegation. More and more Chinese intellectuals are pushing Beijing to “abandon North Korea.” They even support Seoul-initiated reunification, though with some strings attached.
Washington is no longer willing to be deceived by North Korea’s “fraud” that has lasted for two decades. Special envoy Choe Ryong-hae mentioned six-party talks, but the United States doesn’t seem interested unless the North sheds its nuclear ambitions. Washington has even sent strategic bombers in a dry run over the South. U.S. presidents used to take a stance of appeasement toward the North before the elections in order not to create problems. But President Obama is free from the pressures of running for reelection in his second term, and he can address the North Korean issue seriously.
President Park Geun-hye has proposed a trust-building process, but it is highly likely that it is a mere theoretical gesture. It would be difficult for the process to operate as a real policy, and Park would not pursue it blindly. She has responded firmly to North Korea’s provocations and unilateral shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. She seems to have quickly grasped the essence of the North Korean issue. Park is very cautious and would at least not make the mistake of being dragged around by Pyongyang like Kim Dae-jung or Roh Moo-hyun.
The changes surrounding the Korean Peninsula may signal the onset of a new future. This year marks the 68th anniversary of the division, and we have experienced enough suffering over time. The war and provocation by the North resulted in numerous deaths. What were the sacrifices for? The most tragic polarization in the history of the mankind is in progress on the peninsula. The nine young North Koreans who were recently repatriated were so tiny. Their ages range between 15 and 23, but they looked like middle school boys of the South. North Korean people have been malnourished for too long. The average height of young North Koreans is more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) shorter than their South Korean peers. Some 100,000 people are confined in concentration camps. We cannot let such tragedy continue. There must be a reform.
In modern history, there have been two industrial miracles named after rivers: “The Miracle on the Rhine” of Germany and “the Miracle on the Han” of South Korea. The Rhine River originates in the Swiss Alps, flows through Germany and into the North Sea. In 1945, West Germany found itself amid the devastation of World War II and rebuilt its economy from the ruins. Between 1950 and 1973, the West German economy grew by an average of 5.9 percent annually. Unified Germany is set to create yet another economic miracle today.
The Taedong River flows through North Korea, originating from the Hantaeryong in the Nangrim Mountain Range and travelling 450 kilometers (280 miles) through Pyongyang and into the West Sea. The river is wide and has plenty of water, which made Goguryeo’s glorious civilization possible. The beautiful river flows along the Moran Peak of Mount Kumsu and willow-lined islands, around the Rungra Island and by the Juche Monument. Young men and women of the North like to walk on the river bank.
However, we can find other things on the river, such as signs of the North Korean people struggling with the hardship of living, the screams of those in concentration camps and the anxiety of the peninsula over nuclear development.
Now, the river needs to change. President Lee Myung-bak developed four rivers in the South and President Park should develop the Taedong River in the North. The thick layer of sediment of the past needs to be dredged to let the water of a new civilization flow.
Park Geun-hye’s father made the Miracle on the Han River possible. In her inauguration speech, Park pledged to challenge the second miracle of the Han River. Economic revival is urgent, but she must not forget the Taedong River. It is just as important as the Han River, and it is calling Park Geun-hye.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin