Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dear North Korea apologists, how much blood will be enough?

On May 30th 2013, a professor from Inje University, Professor Kim Yeon-chul wrote a column for the Hankyoreh (Korean version here) where he criticized the Park administration’s ‘trust-building process’ policy in dealing with North Korea. Essentially, it is the South Korean government’s way of saying that meaningful negotiations would take place only if North Korea took positive steps toward nuclear disarmament first.

 Professor Kim Yeon-chul

Professor Kim seems to think this approach is all wrong because “Trust is the product of dialogue, not a requirement for it.” He also added, “Government officials have talked about their distrust of Pyongyang before any dialogue has even begun. Do you have to trust someone to talk to them? That’s not realistic, and moreover it lacks any grounding in history.”

As I read Professor Kim’s column, I couldn't help but wonder what it must feel like to be completely delusional.

Trust is the product of dialogue, not a requirement for it? Professor Kim seems to believe that prior to 2013, there had been a complete absence of dialogue between South and North Korea. There had been plenty of negotiations between South and North Korea from 1998 to 2008. During the period of the so-called 'Sunshine Policy,' both the Kim Dae-jung and the Roh Moo-hyun administrations negotiated with North Korea the way the North Koreans wanted – South Korea made concessions, North Korea made none.

Besides funding the construction of railroad and the now-defunct Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, the South Korean government ‘invested’ about $324.3 million in 2005 alone.

For ten years, under the policy of “flexible reciprocity,” as the supposed “elder brother” of the relationship, South Korea provided fertilizers, infrastructure, humanitarian aid, and monetary aid to Pyongyang without a single show of good will from the North Koreans.

Were these rounds of negotiations not enough for Professor Kim?

I suppose I’m being unfair to the professor. He did admit that “quite a few people have talked about how North Korea’s past behavior justifies mistrust.”

What a sublime sense of humor Professor Kim must have to be able to describe so glibly the tragedies that South Korea suffered due to North Korea’s “past behavior.”

What exactly were those past behaviors? I’ll just list some of the more recent ones.

In 2002, during the height of the Sunshine Policy, North Korean naval vessels illegally crossed over the Northern Limit Line and attacked two South Korean patrol boats; killing four South Korean sailors and sinking one of South Korea’s ships.

A model of the PKM 357 at the War Memorial of Korea

The North Koreans' generosity knew no bounds in 2010 when one of their midget submarines, as confirmed by a team of international experts, torpedoed yet another South Korean naval vessel, the ROKS Cheonan. Forty-six South Korean sailors died that day.

The remains of the ROKS Cheonan

The discovered North Korean torpedo that was used to sink the ROKS Cheonan

The fallen

Later that same year, North Korean troops unleashed a barrage of artillery on Yeonpyeong Island. Two South Korean marines and two civilians died that day.

Yeonpyeong Island being shelled by North Korean artillery
The aftermath of the town on Yeonpyeong Island
The fallen

Since then the North Koreans have not directly conducted another conventional military assault on South Korea. Instead, the North Koreans have tested nuclear weapons, test fired rockets, and on multiple occasions threatened to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire.’ Furthermore, it is widely suspected that North Korean hackers were responsible for launching a cyber-attack earlier in March, which paralyzed South Korean banks and TV broadcasters.

How many times has this woman, acting as North Korea's spokesperson, declared that Seoul would burn?

South Korean taxpayers paid to keep the North Korean regime afloat for ten years. The North Koreans showed their gratitude by killing South Korean sailors and marines, murdering a South Korean tourist, and destroying South Koreans’ homes.

To add insult to injury, Professor Kim had the audacity to claim that both countries are at fault for the deteriorated state of inter-Korean relations and went on to claim that what is needed is “the effort to find the root cause within a two-way relationship.”

Just how much more blood has to be spilled before Professor Kim and his ilk realize that there is nothing, nothing at all, to be gained by talking to the North Koreans? Or do the dead mean nothing to him?

He even went on to quote President Reagan who once said, “Trust, but verify.” South Korea did trust the North. And it was verified that the trust was misplaced.

Professor Kim and other like-minded individuals who have and still support ‘peaceful dialogue’ with North Korea, regardless of the costs, are the ones who provided the intellectual ammunition to appease North Korea, which allowed the North Korean leadership more time to replenish its treasury and modernize its arsenal while killing South Koreans and starving its own people. They might not have been the ones who did the killing but their hands are just as stained with blood as the Stalinist leadership in Pyongyang.

The only logical conclusion of appeasement

South Korea owes North Korea nothing. If anything, it is North Korea that is indebted to South Korea. However, the matter of debt, even that of blood, is secondary. What is at issue is that as long as North Korea continues to kill or threaten to kill South Koreans, that makes them nothing more than criminals and that means that there is nothing to talk to them about.

History has shown time and time again that the only thing that the North Koreans understand and respect is strength. That is why despite its rhetoric, North Korea doesn't dare to actually provoke the United States or Japan into a military conflict; that is why North Korea walks hat in hand to Beijing to ask for aid even though it causes them to lose face; that is why South Korea, being the weakest of its neighbors, is always ignored, pilloried, and attacked.

If South Korea ever desires to reenter into talks with North Korea, in order for the talks to be meaningful, South Korea has to do so in a position of strength – an idea that Professor Kim and his ilk can’t seem to wrap their minds around.


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