Seoul Searcher

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blaming General MacArthur

In an opinion poll, conducted recently to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, more than 30 percent of young people in South Korea said they believed that Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the United Nations forces during the war, was responsible for blocking the Korean people’s effort to reunify their country.

From the point of view of most older South Koreans who experienced the war, the opinion of the young people, came as a complete shock, I am sure.

Admittedly, the young people were born long after 1950 and therefore had no experience of that awful war, launched by the North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung to communize the South. They have also grown up in a free and affluent society, which their grandparents and parents worked hard to build up in the 1960s and 70s from the rubble of war. Moreover, they were educated by teachers, many of who are leftists, who have apparently tried their best to brainwash their students with their pro-Communist and pro-North Korean view of the war.

In any case, the young South Koreans apparently believe that MacArthur foiled the “attempt by Koreans to unify their country,” when he launched the tactical maneuver in which the U.S. and South Korean forces landed at Inchon from the West (Yellow) Sea on September 15, 1950 and attacked the occupying North Korean force, recapturing the capital city of Seoul within a few days.

The surprise attack also cut off the North Koreans’ supply line, completely isolating the Communist forces in the South. Within about ten days, the North Koreans had either surrendered or beat a hasty retreat, crossing the 38th parallel that had originally separated from the South from the North.

The U.N. forces then marched north, all the way to the Yalu River that separated the Korean Peninsula from China, nearly succeeding in unifying the country.

But then, the Red Chinese forces, hundreds of thousands of them, crossed the border and surged into North Korea to fight the U.N. forces alongside the North Koreans. They eventually pushed the United Nations forces near to the original dividing line of the 38th parallel before the two sides came to an armistice agreement in 1953.

So, if MacArthur’s Inchon landing frustrated reunification efforts, as those young South Koreans believe, the Chinese Red Amy that invaded Korea, should also be viewed as responsible for blocking the Korean people’s effort to unify their country.

I wonder why those young people so conveniently forget this fact and unfairly shift the blame for the division of their country only on General MacArthur.

It’s incredible as well as deeply saddening to realize that those young South Koreans are blaming the American commander and the United States for blocking the reunification of their country instead of expressing appreciation to MacArthur and being grateful to the United States for helping their country remain free and build up its democratic system and economy.

Would they rather live in a country that is one huge gulag for all practical intents and purposes, starving or living in utter inhuman conditions under the cruel and merciless dictatorship of Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il? The answer, of course, is clear; no one who wasn’t forced to would want to live in constant fear and complete darkness like that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beware of Liars on the Internet

Koreans on the whole are so emotional and gullible that they believe all kinds of dubious allegations, heresies and even downright lies concocted by netizens and spread through the Internet for fun or with malicious intent.

Without ascertaining their truth, Koreans tend to take action, turning the false allegations into social or political issues that sometimes shake the very foundation of the republic.

We all know that on a personal level, a lot of harm is being done to well-known public figures by the nasty twitterers and Internet bloggers and surfers. It has become easy for everyone to use such Internet sites as Google, YouTube and Facebook to attack others, often under the protection of anonymity.

The problem becomes more serious when unscrupulous political activists abuse the Internet to incite social unrest by planting misinformation or rumors. In most advanced societies, the people are not so easily duped into believing information they read on the Internet, until it is substantiated by facts. But the opposite is true in South Korea; for, it is a society where the people are, as I said, highly gullible and excitable.

The situation is exacerbated by the people’s political mindsets.

The country, which is barely as big as the state of Indiana, is politically divided by regions, which have hated each other like irreconcilable brothers for centuries. One group is ostracized and marginalized by the other whenever political power changes hands.

The group, currently in power, comes from the conservative region or the southeastern part of the country while the others—in the opposition now—are mostly left-leaning people from the southwest. Also, as in many other countries, the younger generation tends to be liberal whereas the elderly are conservative.

These, of course, are not fast and clear-cut rules but they are generally true.

Those from the southwestern region, plus a majority of young people, are generally leftists, sympathetic to—if not downright supporters of—the pseudo-Communist regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il while the conservatives are pro-American and anti-North Korean regime.

It is against this demographic and political background that the game of intrigue and propaganda has been played out through the use of the Internet.

Thus, a group of anti-American leftists alleged on the Internet a couple of years ago that the beef imported from the United States was tainted with mad-cow disease, fomenting fear and hysteria among the general populace.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators hit the streets of Seoul and other major cities almost daily to demonstrate against the government for months. However, the allegations were eventually proven false. And yet, not many of those who were known to have spread the groundless allegations were forced to take responsibility for their action.

Then, a South Korean navy vessel exploded and sank in the East (Yellow) Sea nearly three months ago. A painstaking and detailed investigation by South Korean authorities, aided by foreign experts, has established that it was a North Korean submarine that torpedoed and sank the ship.

As usual, the North Koreans denied the charge and the leftists in South Korea parroted Pyongyang, claiming that it must have been the South Koreans themselves who sank their own navy ship. There were even allegations, made on the Internet, that a U.S. submarine was somehow responsible for the sinking.

But who, in their right mind, would sink a navy ship of their own or that of a close ally, unless they were crazy like the leaders in Pyongyang?

Anyway, in the latest episode, Guus Hiddink, former head coach of the South Korean national football (soccer) team, who successfully piloted his team to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup held in South Korea and Japan, was quoted as sharply criticizing the South Korean team currently competing in the World Cup in South Africa in the wake of its 1-4 defeat at the hands of the Argentine side.

Korean newspapers prominently played Hiddink’s criticism under big headlines. And readers were puzzled by the kind of remarks that would not have come from the smart and suave coach. Indeed, it turned out that the whole story was fabricated by a netizen and run on an Internet site as though Hiddink made the remarks in an interview with a Dutch publication.

Needless to say, what this netizen has done is inexcusable. He should be hunted down and made to pay the price for his stupid and pointless prank.

But what is more deplorable, shameful, really, is the irresponsible Korean newspapers that lifted the false story out of the Internet site and without checking its truthfulness, published it on their front pages.

True, we are all victims of the sensationalism and untrustworthy tidbits of information that are masquerading as legitimate news reports these days. We also know that the electronic media, whether we like them or not, are playing an increasingly important role in our society. That is precisely why we must be wary of its harmful effects as well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Loser In the Game of Chicken

When I was reading news reports on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s return to Pyongyang from his visit to China early last month, a faded image of a small Korean boy resurfaced in my memory out of half a century of oblivion.

The boy was one of my classmates at the elementary school in a remote village in South Korea nearly 70 years ago.

The North Korean dictator somehow reminded me of the obnoxious little kid who was disliked and avoided like a leech by everyone in our class. He was not unusually big or strong but managed to bully everyone because he had a big brother who was four years older than us.

His family, I remember, was extremely poor and yet he always was in possession of a pocketful of candies and marbles that he had “confiscated” from us. He even forced us to give up our lunch boxes so that he didn’t have to skip a meal. Luckily for us, his family moved out of our village a couple of years later, and the memory of that awful boy soon faded away.

As we all know, Kim Jong-il visited China shortly after a South Korean navy ship was attacked and sank in the West (Yellow) Sea. A month-long, meticulous investigation by South Koreans aided by a team of foreign experts established—based on undeniable and watertight evidence—that the North Koreans had perpetrated the crime.

Outraged and angry at the latest in North Korea’s unending series of terrorist acts against them, South Koreans vowed to retaliate. President Lee Myung-bak’s government declared it would force the impoverished but belligerent North to pay a price for the unprovoked attack.

South Korea and its ally, the United States, also announced that they would hold a joint naval exercise as part of demonstrations to show their determination to confront possible further provocation from the North. In addition, Seoul moved to have the United Nations condemn North Korea for the attack and tighten its existing economic sanctions against Pyongyang as punishment.

The North Koreans, as usual, resorted to their well-worn tactics, claiming that it was South Korea itself that had “staged” the incident and sank its own navy ship. It even threatened to launch an all-out war against the South if Seoul tries to retaliate against them.

Although Kim Jong-il and his running dogs in Pyongyang barked loudly, they must have been scared nonetheless over a possible military action by the South against them. For, Kim dragged his ailing body to Beijing apparently to seek Chinese reassurance that they would continue to stand by their North Korean puppets no matter what happens.

In the ensuing game of chicken between the North and South, it is Seoul, it seems, that has blinked and let Kim Jong-il get away with murders once again. South Korea and the United States postponed their announced naval exercise indefinitely while the United Nations has not taken any action against North Korea as of early June.
The Seoul government even issued a statement saying it would refrain from taking any step that could provoke North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did visit Beijing but was unable, obviously, to exert any effective influence over the Chinese leadership. Judging by the action—or rather, inaction—of Beijing, China’s role of big brother for the North seems to be unchanged, if not strengthened.

Thus, like the obnoxious kid that my classmates and I had to put up with in our elementary school days, that cruel and insufferable dictator Kim Jong-il, riding piggyback on his big brother, will keep terrorizing and murdering South Koreans with impunity as China continues to expand and wield its power and influence over its neighbors.

Kim Jong-il knows, no doubt, that right now, the United States can’t do anything much for South Korea not only because it has its hands full with two wars—in Iraq and Afghanistan—but also because it is suffering serious financial difficulties that include an enormous debt to China. It has been reported that Beijing has dragged its feet on the U.S. request for Chinese efforts to help maintain peace in the Korean Peninsula.

One only hopes that the overconfident Kim Jong-il will not take any more rash and miscalculated action against the South that could easily trigger another all-out war that would surely reduce the two Koreas to one huge heap of rubble.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living With Ants (II)

The other day, I played god with a couple of tiny ants, members a species that is smaller than a grain of rice. Hundreds of thousands of them have invaded our house and have been living with us for years. That is why I wasn’t very upset when I saw them crawling around the edges of the bathtub when I was taking my morning bath.

I decided to get rid of them but not immediately. I wanted to see how strong their instinct for survival was. I realized that I was being cruel. But my desire to observe their behavior in the face of imminent death was stronger.

First, I built a puddle of water around them with warm bath water scooped up with the palms of my hand in order to see them struggle to get out of their watery confine and escape. Apparently, though, they are not good swimmers.

Despite their desperate efforts, they could not wriggle through water. But they never gave up; they ran around tirelessly in search of a possible exit for more than five minutes.

I found out that in the world of ants, there are also individual differences. One ant was obviously stronger physically than the other. It continued to scurry around while the other one gradually slowed down, eventually stopped running altogether and lay there as still as though it was dead.

Then, I witnessed an amazing scene. The stronger one approached the weaker one and in what appeared to me to be a gesture of nudging, pushed its head against the body of the exhausted fellow ant. Of course, I had no way of knowing whether ants actually communicate with each other and, if they do, how.

Anyway, to my great surprise, the one that I thought was dead, started moving again. And pretty soon, it began running again, not with its companion, but separately.

Meanwhile, the bathwater was getting less and less warm as I forgot to replenish it with hot water as I usually do. I was too preoccupied with my observation of the ants’ behavior.

Then, a disaster befell on the physically stronger ant. While it was frantically trying to find a route for escape, it run over the slippery edge and fell into the tube. And for a few moments, I thought it had no chance of surviving in the larger body of water, however tepid the water had become.

But lo and behold! It not only survived the fall but was vigorously moving in the soapy bathwater. Impressed by the tenacity of such a small creature and taking pity on it, I fished it out in my palm and returned it to his former “watery prison.”

Some may say that I was being needlessly cruel, but I had become extremely impatient with all the ants that had been bothering us everywhere in our house day and night. And I have killed them mercilessly whenever I spotted them. The couple of ants I ran into in the bathroom could not be an exemption. I contemplated what could be the best way to send them to their death. The answer was hot water. I knew the water didn’t have to be scalding hot.

I turned on the hot water, cupped some of it in my hands and sprinkled it on the two ants, which were reduced to a couple of dark specks instantly.

Coming out of the bathroom, I did not feel sorry for them. But somehow, I didn’t feel any vengeful elation either. Nevertheless, as I was drying myself, I turned on my CD player, knowing that the music it would play would be Mozart’s Requiem.


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