Persuade the people first

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Persuade the people first

“The Rose of Sharon Blooms Again” was a best-selling novel from the 1990s by Kim Jin-myung. I personally enjoyed the book, which cleverly stimulates anti-Japanese sentiment and emotional patriotism. However, the conclusion of the novel, South Korea and North Korea uniting to declare a nuclear attack on Japan, is far from reality, even now.

A novel by the same author has also become a best-seller. But this time, it’s about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad). Unlike his previous book, the author didn’t conclude the novel with a radical ending and left it open instead. He said he hasn’t decided what his opinion on Thaad is yet.

Just like Kim, many Koreans are confused by the issue. And it seems that the government is encouraging this. U.S. officials’ remarks are very specific and state that Washington is considering moving an advanced missile defense system from Guam to Korea, while China is sending the signal that the deployment of a Thaad unit will have serious consequences for Korean-Chinese relations whenever it has a chance. Nevertheless, the Korean government remains ambiguous and says there has never been an official discussion with the United States while arguing that if a Thaad unit were deployed, it would help Korea’s security and national defense.

But a seemingly complicated issue often has an unexpectedly simple answer. We need to review whether a Thaad deployment is so crucial for the security of Korea. If not, there is no reason for Seoul to fret.

If Thaad deployment is crucial for our security, we should not be concerned about what other countries think. Seoul will need to persuade China why we need Thaad. If the effort fails, it will only prove that Seoul hasn’t been able to establish a foundation for strategic communication. Xi Jinping’s government has worked hard to improve Korean-Chinese relations, not because China wants Korea’s investment and technology but because they recognize Korea’s value in Beijing’s overseas strategy. The Thaad controversy has made it clear that we can’t keep the dichotomous structure of relying on the United States for security and China for economy.

It is expected that the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting, scheduled for the end of October, will clarify the Thaad issue. Regardless of the decision, the public is likely to be divided between supporters and opponents of the deployment. It is a confidential national security issue, but now that even a novel about Thaad has been published, chaos and trouble may be the price the government has to pay for failing to provide a proper explanation. At this rate, the government won’t be able to persuade Korean citizens, much less China or the United States.

*The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 14, Page 34


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