Koreas going too far
Both sides should regain cool self-restraint
Sacred war. Ruthless attack. Thoroughgoing punishment. Merciless retribution. Verbal battles mobilizing these words have long become background noise on the Korean Peninsula that few seem to care about much when they hear them.
Even so, there are some elements that strain listeners in Pyongyang’s threat of provocation Monday. For instance, the targets are specific, including state broadcasters and a conservative daily, the timeline is clear ― ``soon” in the North’s propaganda means within a week ― and method is foretold, albeit not in detail, that it will be unprecedented one.
Aside from the analysis of details, North Korea badly needs some external outlets to discharge its anger and frustration in the wake of its bungled rocket launch, to recover the wounded pride of the regime, especially of its new leader Kim Jong-un.
Still some phrases in Pyongyang’s statement ― calling the Lee Myung-bak administration a ``rat-like group of traitors” ― were too base and mean to think they came from a state organization. Confrontation may be inevitable, but the level of exchange didn’t need to reach this level. The inter-Korean war of words, which has intensified since President Lee took a hard-line policy four years ago, shouldn’t fall any further.
At stake is whether and how the North would turn its words into actions. To some experts it is just a psychological war, as Pyongyang has thus far made military provocations without prior signals. They are right if a North Korean submarine had torpedoed the South’s battleship Cheonan. Others say there would be real provocations, as Pyongyang used to do as it said would do. They are also right if the artillery shelling on Yeonpyeong Island is any guide. Chances, as always, are half and half.
If the North provokes, possible methods also range from another artillery attack, this time on Seoul, to terrorist acts on key figures or facilities.
We, along with other South Koreans, hope the war of words would end as such. Both sides, especially Pyongyang, should exercise moderation and self-restraint with cool heads. The North’s establishment might be upset because its ``supreme leader” was told to do this or that by his South Korean counterpart. But self-reliance is possible only when self-feeding is possible, and no amount of pride or dignity can substitute people’s security and subsistence. How long should they keep North Koreans in feudalistic isolation and backwardness to keep their regime?
Provided it takes two to tango, however, one also can’t help but doubt whether the South needed to continue to stimulate the North. Seoul could maintain a hard-line or hands-off policy without appearing to want ― or even induce ― to see Pyongyang crumble. A stag at bay is always more furious and desperate than it should be.
The government must make watertight preparations against any rash acts by the communists. But it’s time for all Koreans to feel sad and shameful rather than angry and aggressive. They are the only people in the world who fight with one another not for racial or religious causes but for ideological ― and anachronistic ― reasons.