An unfinished dramaThe god of history must love drama. Since the 20th century, that god bestowed starring roles on three ethnic groups: the Jews, Germans and Koreans. Through the history of these people, humanity is witnessing an amazing combination of tragedy and comedy.
The Jews lost their land and spread around the world for more than 2,500 years in the diaspora. Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Then their fate changed completely as Israel was established in 1949. It became the bravest nation when it came to fighting for its own national security.
There was nothing easy about the wars and battles that Israel had fought. Israeli fighters bombed Iraq in 1981 and nuclear reactors in Syria in 2007. They did not fire missiles from afar. They sent fighter jets loaded with bombs and flew more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) to drop them on their targets. The pilots risked their lives in these missions. Recently, Iran announced a tentative agreement to allow inspectors to see its nuclear facilities, and the United States and other countries agreed to loosen some sanctions. Israel is against the deal.
In November 2010, a village in Yeonpyeong Island burned as missiles from North Korea rained down. But the ROK Air Force couldn’t fire a single shot. The Air Force has more than 40 fighters, each costing 100 billion won ($95.08 million). It also boasts that one of its missiles can precisely target a window from 100 kilometers away. However, the Air Force was flying over without taking any action when two civilians were killed that day. The ROK military is now purchasing Spike missiles from Israel.
Germany went through the great drama of unification. Having been defeated in two world wars, Germany was left devastated and divided. However, the Germans didn’t forget about reunification. The German Constitution defined a reunification through absorption. When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, West Germany did not miss the chance, and it took less than one year to reunify. Unified Germany revived the Miracle on the Rhine. While 17 countries in the eurozone suffered minus growth, Germany boasts positive growth. Germany has become the mainstay of a shaky Europe.
Now the world is awaiting yet another drama staged on the Korean Peninsula starring the Korean people. Three out of four acts have been performed in South Korea already. The first was the founding and defending of the nation. The second was economic development, followed by democratization, which was the third. In four decades, South Korea has accomplished what many other countries could only dream of. It took exactly 40 years from the founding of the nation in 1948 to the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
The first three acts deserve to be called the story of Korean civilization. Construction is the key to a civilization. Egypt constructed pyramids in the desert, and China built the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Koreans built steelworks and highways. The tallest building in the world, the biggest cruise ship, the fastest smartphone and the television with the highest resolution are made by Koreans.
Civilization is also colorful. Ancient China’s signature colors were red and gold. Korea is coloring its civilization green. It started by planting trees on bare mountains. If the sound of civilization in Europe is beautiful and glorious symphonies, Korea’s is the sound of sewing machines worked by factory girls and the Saemaeul song chanted by farmers. Those sounds saved tens of millions from a period of poverty that extends back 5,000 years. Now people from Africa are coming to Korea to learn the song.
But the drama on the Korean Peninsula is unfinished. The last act has yet to be performed. It will be the peaceful absorption of North Korea by the South and the building of a glorious and lively liberal democratic nation with 75 million people.
For a long time, the fourth act was considered a distant dream.
But the situation is rapidly changing. After 68 years and a three-generation power dynasty, North Korea is struggling with the signs of a terminal Communist dictatorship. The new regime has publicly executed 40 people in a year. Victims are not just powerless civilians. The second-most powerful man in the country was purged and his aides were executed.
While the people starve, the leader invites a basketball player from the West to visit him. An opening ceremony for a water park was held in October, and soldiers are constructing a ski resort.
The fourth act is about to begin. Once the curtain goes up, the road to reunification will stretch before us. It will be a long and costly journey. But in drama, courage is more important than money. Samsung Electronics’ annual operating profit is $40 billion. That is enough money to rebuild the North Korean economy.
When North Korea is shaking, South Korea needs to unite under the leadership of the president. And we need to go onto the great path that the Germans took. When we take millions of starving and suffering people out of barbarity and servitude and into civilization and freedom, the drama will be completed.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin