Time for a cool-headed approachLEE DONG-HYUN
The author is the deputy editor of industry team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Several years ago, I completed the basic military training at the Korean Army Training Center in Nonsan, South Chungcheong, and took a TMO train and a M602 truck to get to the ROK Army Intelligence School in Icheon, Gyeonggi. Compared to the tough physical training at Nonsan, the four-week training at the military intelligence school was not very challenging, as it mostly involved reading textbooks, building field experience and conducting written tests.
I have many memories of those days, but I cannot discuss in detail as I cannot disclose national secrets as a reservist in Korea. One thing I want to disclose is that I received training to send helium balloons to an aimed location.
We carefully adjusted the amount of helium to the weight of the “articles” in the balloon and to the direction of the wind. But in the practice, they hardly ever flew the way we intended. The instructor openly said that the balloon would not reach the point that trainees intended.
As you might have guessed, most of the articles we were sending were propaganda leaflets to North Korea. In some cases, explosives or relief goods could be sent, but it was harder to fly heavier things. South and North Korea stopped sending official propaganda leaflets at the military level after the inter-Korean summit in 2000.
Those who grew up in the 1970s and 80s would have memories of picking up a propaganda leaflet from North Korea and reporting it to the police. The police would give stationery in return for reporting. The “reward” disappeared as the regulation on collecting and disposing North Korean propaganda materials was abolished in 2007. As North Korea’s economic situation worsened, it sent fewer propaganda leaflets than before. As a result, the number of police reports by South Korean children to receive stationery also decreased.
The Army Intelligence School produced the first drone specialists last year. I think they no longer offer training on sending balloons on the ground. Public opinion is mixed on civic groups, mostly comprising North Korean defectors, who dispatch propaganda leaflets across the border. Some say that the practice needs to be stopped to help improve inter-Korean relations, while others stress that the freedom of speech should not be restricted for North Korea.
Lao Tzu wrote in Tao Te Ching, “When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” Everything in life has two sides. You need to look at both sides and make a calm decision to prevent unwanted consequences.