United voices of the peopleWhat helped to bring about a rare apology from North Korea and a landmark agreement between the two Koreas to end the recent military standoff and pave the way for dialogue was patience from our people. Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook in a press statement said the high-level talks produced a “meaningful result” because people showed faith and support in the government and military by attending to their everyday lives without any unrest and confusion.
Unlike in the past, there were few conspiracy theories or rumors about the explosions of land mines on the southern side of the borderline that maimed two South Korean soldiers, despite North Korea’s claim that South Korea staged the accident and criticism for escalating tension by blaring propaganda over loudspeakers. Similar threats from North Korea following distribution of propaganda leaflets had caused conflict and disputes between liberals and conservatives and the ruling and opposition parties. Even as the two Koreas exchanged fire and North Korea declared a quasi-state of war, people remained calm and united.
North Korea’s propaganda outlet broadcast videos claiming the South was in a state of panic in fear of war, with people rushing to shops to buy emergency stocks of food and to airports to flee the country. But South Koreans posted videos and messages rebuking and mocking the false reports on the Internet and SNS. Soldiers pushed back their discharge dates to stay with the military during the critical time. Such unity on the southern side helped keep the North Korean representatives in the conference room for 43 hours in order to come to a decision to end the conflict.
The political front, which is usually poles apart on inter-Korean issues, also displayed bipartisanship during the state of emergency. Kim Moo-sung and Moon Jae-in, respective leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, held a meeting soon after North Korea fired projectiles toward the western border to issue a joint demand for North Korea to cease provocations and participate in inter-Korean dialogue. Such a unified front from the political circles and the public provided moral support for the military and government negotiators to stay both firm and engaging, to come to the best possible compromise. Some emerging theories that North Korea should not be blamed for the land mine blasts and war could be imminent were soon silenced because the majority of people did not waver and remained calm even as militaries on both sides of the border went on full alert while negotiators continued talks at the truce village day and night over four days.
The recent experience has taught us a valuable lesson that political unity can help not only mitigate any conflict among ourselves but also tame North Korea.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 26, Page 30