Death of Korean Aid Worker
The tragic execution of Eom Young-sun, a South Korean aid worker, reflects the barbarism of Bin Laden-ist jihadism in the Middle East. But it is both empirically inaccurate and morally grotesque to suggest that her slaying reflects South Korea's rising international status.
Ms. Eom was murdered in Yemen with eight other foreigners of various nationalities, suggesting that she was a target of opportunity, and not chosen because she was Korean. It is correct that Korea is a U.S. ally, but it is only nominally involved in the war on terror.
And Islamic fundamentalism is most worried about theistic completion with other Abrahamic monotheism (Judaism and Christianity) and Hindu polytheism. Korea (despite its growing Christian population) is culturally and geographically quite distant from these concerns.
Islamic fundamentalists have shown little interest in a religious competition with Buddhism or Confucianism since the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas.
What is morally perverse, however, is spinning a savage execution into a grotesque complement to Korea's national stature. Small countries like Korea usually lament their low international recognition. This is understandable, as world attention focuses on great powers.
This breeds status-craving and weak global self-esteem in wannabes like Spain, Italy, or Turkey, and Korea Times columnist Jon Huer has aptly made this point about Korea.
But reading this homicide as a perverse ``complement" suggests not that Korea has ``rising status," but that Koreans crave it so much, they will look for even the flimsiest, most grotesque evidence. This is disappointing.
Korea is a fine place to live ― wealthy, liberal, democratic, plural. It is patiently and steadfastly resisting the world's last and worst Stalinist tyranny without sliding into authoritarianism (as Pakistan has done in its competition with India). This is a huge achievement. That is the root of its prestige; that is what Koreans should take pride in.
Dr. Robert Edwin Kelly
Pusan National University