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Pyongyang is Seoul’s issue, too

We need to bring together experience and wisdom to overcome the extraordinary crisis.
Dec 16,2017
In 1543, matchlocks were introduced in Japan. Portuguese merchants who drifted in a storm introduced the guns, and they became the game changer at the time of Nobunaga Oda. Noteworthy is the fact that this new weapon was in Joseon before the Japanese invasion of 1592. The Seonjo Sujeong Silok states that the governor of Daemado offered the guns to Joseon in 1589. Ryu Seong-ryeong’s Jinggirok shows that the Joseon Tongsinsa brought them from Japan in 1590. The court of Joseon confirmed the fearsome capacity of the guns and decided to keep them in military storage.

These easygoing politics resulted in one-third of the population being killed and two-thirds of farming land devastated. Now, the threat is North Korean nuclear weapons. Experts say that in three to four months, small and light nuclear weapons that can be attached to missiles will be tested.

The test launch of the Hwaseong-15 ICBM which can be loaded with nuclear weapons was held last month. The CIA predicts that the program will be completed in three months. This is different from the nuclear threats of the past.

During this serious situation, President Moon Jae-in is making a state visit to China. There may have been a diplomatic disgrace in formality, and there could be little outcome due to China’s taming of Korea. However, the Moon administration’s diplomacy is soft on China. The president has said that special attention will be paid so that China’s security interests won’t be infringed. Thaad is deployed because of North Korean nuclear weapons, and China is also responsible for failing to discourage North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. While Korea can make more demands, it fell short of expectations.

What is the cause? Fundamentally, little progress has been made since the North Korea policy of the Roh Moo-hyun era. In 2004, President Roh Moo-hyun said that North Korea claimed that the nuclear weapons were a measure of deterrence to protect itself from external threats. This was before the nuclear tests or ICBMs. North Korea now has the capability to produce its own nuclear weapons. Therefore, solutions need to change. But, the North Korean nuclear program is still considered an issue between Pyongyang and Washington as it is used to deter the United States’ hostile policy against North Korea. Little has changed since President Roh’s understanding that nuclear weapons give North Korea leverage in talks with the United States.

An administration insider visiting China with President Moon said that Korea and China share the position on “freeze-for-freeze” on the nuclear issue. I cannot comprehend how the North Korean nuclear program, the cause of the crisis, can be exchanged for military exercises, which is a lawful response. The government thinks the red line hasn’t been crossed, and the foreign minister called Hwasong-15 a long-range missile.

In Korean politics, the North Korean issue is a battlefield of ideologies. It was in the early Roh Moo-hyun administration when the self-reliance faction and the alliance faction clashed frequently. But foreign minister Ban Ki-moon and Ambassador to the United States Han Seung-ju were close to the United States.

Now, the foreign policy and security teams are filled with doves of the self-reliance faction, and the ambassadors to major countries share similar views.

It has been a requirement since the Roh Moo-hyun administration to take an English language test. However, some appointed diplomats have been exempted. It is like sending soldiers to a battle without verifying their skills. Promotions in the military have been delayed by nearly two months while their qualifications are verified.

North Korean nuclear weapons may be more complicated than Japan’s matchlocks. But they both drive crisis to extremes. We need to bring together experience and wisdom to overcome the extraordinary crisis.

Trying to overcome the challenges of powerful neighbors with code and color is not unlike the pathetic discords of the Joseon dynasty that kept guns in storage.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 15, Page 38

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Choi Sang-yeon