[ KOREAN ]
Issue 242 [11.23]
Issue 241 [07.11]
Issue 240 [06.01]
Issue 239 [03.21]
Issue 238 [01.26]
Tae Guk Gi and Stars & Stripes
Six Pary Talks
Asian Peace Philosophy
☞ Issue 232
Where is our Leader?
Moon J. Pak
Korean peninsula in the past century was mired in one turmoil after another all involving struggles among foreign powers. Needless to say, one of the major causes of this continued conflict was the geopolitical reality of the peninsula, being surrounded by the countries that are bigger, stronger, richer and most of all, none having any altruistic intensions toward the Korean people; these include, Japan, China, Russia, and more recently, a country across the Pacific, United States.
Among these, by far the most tragic event befallen on the poor Koreans of the peninsula was the Korean War (1950-53) that followed the end of WWII in 1945, that caused the division of the peninsula. The division was the consequence of the end of the colonial rule by the Japanese, enforced by the victorious Allied Powers, U.S. and USSR.
One can say thus, that the modern Korean Tragedy was a direct consequence of the ruthless 36 years of Japanese colonial occupation of the Korea that began in 1910.
When one scrutinize the reality of the Korean modern history at the time, it becomes painfully clear that the last stage of feudalistic Korea at the time, the Lee Dynasty, and the society as well as the people of Korea as a whole was in such a retarded state that they were ripe to be picked by Japan or any other neighbors of the peninsulas at the time; a harsh cast system, ignorant and poorly educated people, a country ruled by aristocratic minority that intentionally rejected the western civilization knocking at its door step, etc.
At individual people’s level also, the lack of true patriotism, selfish individualism, inclination to realize one’s ambition by foreign dependence, ignorance of the world outside of the small peninsula, negligence in the power of education for the coming generation, lack of a realization for the need for the defensive military power in the face of the world filled with imperialism, all contributed to the dire national situation at the time that resulted in the Japanese annexation of Korea without significant organized resistance by the Korean people!
Most of all the absence of a national leader that personifies the aspiration of the people and commands the absolute respect of all Koreans at that critical moment of its history was the “Tragedy of Korea” at the time.
After a complete devastation of the land and two million deaths, the three year long Korean War ended 60 years ago. It was a civil war in that it was fought between the two Koreas on Korean soil but it was a part of a cold war, an ideological conflict between U.S. and USSR. The ideologies, that Koreans neither side even understood at the time. It was “The war of Proxy”
During the last 60 years of post-war period, both Koreas have gone through significant metamorphosis; the South has become a strong economic power, 11th in the world, with 42 million people, democracy patterned after U.S. capitalism, and the North, a strict socialist country, with 24 million people with 1.2 million armed forces with nuclear arms.
It is obvious that there should have been a strong unification movement in the Korean peninsula either at an inter-governmental level between the two Koreas, or at least among its people. The forced division must end and Korea must become one again!
At an inter-governmental level, we saw 6-15 Announcements (2,000) which was followed by 10-4 Declaration (2,007), however seven long years in between! Both of these efforts were unfortunately promptly nullified by the conservative regime of the South that emerged in 2007.
Therefore obviously, there is a need to have a people’s movement on the “Unification” issue both in the peninsula, but more importantly among the Koreans overseas, say more importantly because the overseas Koreans are more critically motivated and have better access to world opinions and have better influence on both Koreas.
Indeed, there emerged in the past 10 to 15 years, many groups, organizations, movements from various Korea American communities.
Unfortunately however from the onset, these groups were divided into two major categories based on their political ideologies; conservatives and progressives; the conservatives are actually committed to the South! and their idea of unification is simply the absorption of collapsed North by the South. Furthermore they not only reject any concept of negotiated and compromised unification proposal between the two Koreas, but also denounce supporters of such a concept, most of them, progressives, as “pro-North red”. Therefore right from the beginning, Korean American “Unification Movement” has been weakened by the lack of unanimity amongst them.
Among progressive Korean Americans, multiple groups have emerged engaged in many honest and effective activities promoting the peace and unification in Korea. They are composed of religious leaders, academics of various disciplines, professionals, media people, and more recently, the second generation Korean American professionals. Since the North is still defined as enemy country by the U.S. and thus is under embargo they have to make difficult efforts to get access to the North to develop better understandings of the country, society, politics, economy, and leadership so as to develop basics of the plan for unification between the two Koreas. This activity has been carried out even under constant denunciation and attack by the conservative element of Korean American community as being, “pro-North”.
To most engaged in this Unification Movement, there is a unique and complex emotional element in that it is not just a patriotic peace movement based on altruistic commitment. Reflecting on the sad modern history of Korea, especially on the events took place in the peninsula that had caused 60 year long division of the country, that has no precedence in the world; war, enmity, foreign dependence, etc., it is really an effort to reverse the shameful record of Korean people and its modern history! Therefore, activities should be carried out with humbleness, solemnity, and anonymity.
However, it is a sad reality that among the groups, there is a significant number of Korean Americans who participate in the Movement with ulterior motives of financial gain, political ambition, social promotion, and for desire for recognition. And very often it results in interpersonal conflicts, organizational disruptions, and deviations from the purity of the Movement’s objectives.
Korea, a one race, one nation but divided into two for well over a half century, especially when the benefits of unification stand out in so many ways, so clear, it is the Korean tragedy that the Unification Movement is also hopelessly divided, that the Koreans appear not to be able to understand the semantic irony of “Divided Unification Movement”.
Perhaps again, there is a need for an appearance of a great single national leader who commands an absolute respect of every Koreans in North, South and overseas and with a charisma matching the record of some of the greatest leaders in the world history.
Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chairman, US-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee (UDMEDEX)
Senior Vice-President, Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC)
811 Oakwood Dr. #201
Rochester, MI 48307
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