The true meaning of friendship
In retrospect, Chinese president Xi Jinping’s lecture at Seoul National University in the summer of 2014 was unusual. The movie “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” was a big hit at the time, and Xi said that Ming commander Deng Zilong fought alongside Admiral Yi Sun-sin and was killed in the battle of Noryang, and that the descendants of Ming general Chen Lin still live in Korea. He reminded the students about “the grace of reconstruction,” the favor Ming offered to save Joseon. Then he cited a line from a Li Bai poem, “One day, I’ll ride the long wind and break the waves.”
He suggested Korea and China should sail together.
After U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert was attacked, he wrote on Twitter in Korean, “Let’s go together.” It was an expression that Gen. Baek Seon-yeob said to Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the 1950-53 Korean War. When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies three years ago, he concluded the lecture with “Let’s go together.”
The United States wants Korea to consider Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad), while China warns Seoul to “think carefully.” High-ranking officials from Beijing and Washington flew into Seoul. Opposing pressure was exerted on Korea’s participation in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The United States and China are pulling Korea by each arm.
China has given us a peek into what would happen if we don’t go together. In 2000, Korea put tariffs on garlic to protect Korean farmers, and China restricted the import of mobile phones and polyethylene. Korea surrendered within a month. Back then, Korea’s exports to China were 11 percent of its total exports. Now, it has grown to 25 percent.
When French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama, China postponed a plan to purchase airplanes from the nation. Sarkozy expressed regret, and China bought 200 units at once. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron had a similar experience in 2012. Recently, both France and the United Kingdom have swiftly expressed their intentions to join the AIIB.
Pulling someone’s wrist is not true companionship. Friends need to understand and wait. To the United States and China, I’d like to cite a part from Su Shi’s poem, which former Chinese President Jiang Zemin liked to mention: “Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again; The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane. There has been nothing perfect since the olden days. So let us wish that man will live long as he can! Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.”
*The author is a deputy national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 19, Page 31
by LEE SANG-EON