Reunification is reality. President Park
Geun Hye’s “Unification as Jackpot” policy is not just populist rhetoric. The
process of solving the unification problem is a sacrifice that cannot even compare to the Sewol tragedy. The first hurdle towards
unification is the issue of North Korean defectors. If the South Korean
government does not have the will or ability to manage North Korean defectors, the same race victims of three generations of hereditary dictatorship,
then “unification as jackpot” becomes a meaningless phrase, a hurdle that
neither public nor politician can overcome.
The modern history of South Korea to date has been largely “history
for free”. The United States’ bomb “Little Boy” brought about Japan’s
surrender and ended the Japanese occupation of the Korean
peninsula. The Korean War was started by Kim Il Sung, with the approval of Stalin
and Mao, and ended by the intervention of the United States and UN. Korea has been reliant on the United States for security, by way of the bilateral alliance, and in the
meantime has vigorously developed its economy to create the Korea we can see today.
With such a strong nation as its ally, Korea has neglected its own security.
This is what happens when one gets many things “for free”.
Next month will mark 66 years since South
Korea was established. This is a country that has passed the North Korean
defector problem onto other countries, despite being more than 60 years old. On
June 21st, 21 North Korean defectors were arrested in northern Thailand. The
attitude with which both the government and media took this news was
rather strange. These are Korean people, of the same race as ourselves, and yet
we acted as though they were strangers. We said that we hoped that the Thai
government would send the defectors wherever they wanted to go. There was no
news to follow up the initial report. There are many such examples of the
Korean government’s lack of responsibility.
There is no way to measure even the general
scope of the number of North Korean defectors hiding in China. The so-called
“quiet diplomacy” that the Korean government has used to manage them is no more
than a reluctance to claim responsibility. It’s a philosophy of
allowing Korea to pass the protection of them on to China, avoiding any
North Korean defectors are already spread
out across the world under the protection of third party governments. Canada,
the United States, not to mention England, Germany, and the rest of Europe, are
protecting them. To not be able to protect your own people, and then to
proclaim unification as “the jackpot” is a contradiction in terms.
When Germany was divided, West Germany used
every measure available to ensure that people escaping from East Germany were protected.
They took in dozens of those that the East German government had given
up on. Bonn accepted 34,000 political prisoners at a cost of 3 billion DM.
Indeed, through the Freikauf model West Germany showed just how willing they were to pour their hearts and souls
into protecting the East German people. West Germany extracted more than
3,500,000 East Germans overall. Compare that to the 26,000 defectors Korea talks of
having taken in.
In the summer of 1989, when East Germans
were defecting in droves and there was much resistance, Prime Minister Kohl showed
strong leadership in order to pave the way for unification. He asked the
Hungarian government to open up its border to Austria as much as possible for
the East German defectors. Despite the protests of East Germany, then an ally
of Hungary, the Hungarian government did as Prime Minister Kohl asked and opened
the border to Austria. This decision allowed about 24,000 East Germans to get
to West Germany by way of Hungary and Austria. West Germany paid Hungary back
by wholeheartedly backing their economic reforms.
The 17,000 East Germans who went into the
West German embassy in Prague were all helped. All the East Germans that left
East German soil were, without a doubt, protected by West Germany. West Germany
did not neglect any East German in surroundings countries in Eastern
Europe: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary.
North Korean defectors could not have corn porridge under Kim Jong Eun, let alone a decent meal of rice and broth. They were
exploited and became victims of political persecution. The line of people crying
for freedom and the right to live as human beings is long. The history of
humanity, particularly East Germany, carries a lesson for the
North Korean defectors are the acid test,
the touchstone for “unification as jackpot.”
* Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK. This Guest Column appeared in Korean on July 15th.