Beware fake peaceThe festivities of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics have come to an end. We witnessed the great spirit of sport in speed skater Lee Seung-hoon, whose last-minute spurt propelled him to gold; the Korean women’s curling team, who surprised the world with a silver finish; and the friendship between Lee Sang-hwa and Nao Kodaira.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s dispatch of Kim Yong-chol to lead a high-level delegation at the closing ceremony, though, was not fair play. “It is a natural thing to celebrate and help the Korean people’s happy occasion,” Kim Jong-un reportedly said. And yet, he sent the culprit responsible for killing 50 South Koreans — 46 during the Cheonan sinking and four during the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island — as a messenger of peace. He did not consider the Korean people’s emotions at all.
The Moon Jae-in administration said there is no proof that Kim Yong-chol is the main culprit behind the attacks, fueling public rage. The Blue House is evidently shocked by the snowballing backlash. It seems worried that the people’s fatigue toward Kim Jong-un and their hatred of this administration’s humiliating attitude will affect the legislative elections in June. Kim Jong-un might have thought he supported President Moon, but his move has ironically put Moon in a dilemma.
Apart from political interpretations, Kim Yong-chol’s visit to the South left us with a series of questions that we cannot ignore. What is the limit of peace by splitting the country? How long can peace remain when the people who sacrificed their lives while protecting the country are ignored? Who will shed blood to defend our country in the future? Which country will help us in a future crisis?
This administration has promoted the noble responsibility that it has to do anything for the sake of peace without a war. But more Koreans actually think they cannot accept “fake peace” as long as there is a nuclear program on the peninsula. Fake peace means peace won at the sacrifice of our money, freedom, culture and identity by surrendering to Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons and threats.
Just last week, the Korean Central News Agency gracefully described “fake peace” in its own term: “Our national nuclear capability is a strategic asset of the Korean people, and it never targets the Korean people. We will not occupy South Korea, a small piece of territory in our close proximity.” That is a lie. Nuclear capability is the North’s powerful resource to rule the South.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula is impossible in the arms of cruel, unpredictable Kim Jong-un. The Moon administration wants the nation to accept Kim Yong-chol’s visit for the sake of a greater cause and peace, but we cannot do it because it seems like the government is tolerating fake peace supported by nuclear capabilities.
When fake peace is established, the internal conflict among South Korean people will grow to an extreme. When the country is split into two, winning a small piece of peace from the North is meaningless. It is not even sustainable. “Soldiers were buried under the cold waters of the sea while defending the country, but the murderer is smiling and meeting the president while their families are crying outside [the presidential office],” one comment on the internet read. It is impossible to understand the government’s reception of the offender, who offered not a single word of explanation or apology to the victims of the Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong shelling.
It was only a month ago that Moon condemned his predecessor for striking a deal with Japan on the so-called comfort women issue without consulting the victims in advance. This government’s double standards are ruining confidence at home and abroad. When the government cannot be trusted, how can it ask the people to make sacrifices and seek neighboring countries’ help when it is in a crisis?
Even if Kim Yong-chol, whose nickname is The Chameleon, makes various arguments about peace, we cannot overlook the crimes he committed against the Korean people. He must pay for it. It is a truth that will never change as long as the constitution of this country remains. While in Seoul, he must feel the outrage and emotions of the South Korean people who cannot accept fake peace supported by a nuclear program, and he must return to Pyongyang with an honest report to Kim Jong-un.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30
*The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.