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A confusing portrait

June 27,2017
Memories of the Korean War (1950-53) have become faint, but our society is acutely divided along ideological lines. On the day we commemorate the outbreak of the tragic war 67 years ago, June 25, the nation showed a very sad — and confusing — portrait.

The Korean War, which began with North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s order at dawn to invade South Korea, led to the deaths of 2 million people, military and civilian, and left as many as 10 million people homeless. But ideological conflict continues today. On Sunday, our society laid bare the friction between conservative and liberal groups just as it did nearly seven decades ago. In particular, some civic groups’ behavior raises deep concerns as it is in sharp contrast with the way they showed their determination to build a better nation through candlelight vigils on Gwanghwamun Square last winter.

New Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s visit to the base of the 2nd Division of U.S. Forces in Euijeongbu, Gyeonggi, on Sunday carried great significance. The base is the place where a performance by famous Korean singers had to be canceled in the face of some entertainers’ refusal to perform even on the 100th birthday of the division. Foreign Minister Kang’s trip to the division represented the Moon Jae-in government’s reaffirmation of the decades-old alliance with the U.S. In an address there, Kang underscored the nuclear threat from North Korea and the need for both allies to consolidate their joint command.

In a separate ceremony, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon called for the denuclearization of North Korea and denounced its inhumane treatment of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died shortly after his release by Pyongyang this month.

Some 6,000 members of radical groups, including one opposing the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system, encircled the U.S. Embassy and demanded the deployment be scrapped. Their act could be seen as opposition to the Korea-U.S. alliance. Their human chain reminded us of the massive candlelight vigils after the deaths of two local middle school girls who were crushed by a U.S. armored vehicle in Dongducheon 15 years ago. The government must keep a balance: coping with the North’s nuclear threats while defending the alliance that keeps us safe.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 26, Page 30