Don’t Ignore Rights Abuses
By Ross R. Zarub
I must take issue with David McCann's assertion that ``the sunshine policy is not a political policy but something like humanity.''
Prof. McCann, director of the Korea Institute at Harvard University, made the assertion in an interview with The Korea Times in its May 1 edition under the headline of ``Sunshine Policy Is More Than Politics.''
If anything, propping up the world's most repugnant regime with billions of dollars in aid while its citizens starve to death and face summary execution or imprisonment in labor camps is the antithesis of humanity.
Prof. McCann might attend a lecture by Doctor Norbert Vollertsen, whose experiences in North Korean hospitals occurred at roughly the same time as Kim Dae-jung's publicity stunts and photo ops at banquets hosted by Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.
Dr. Vollertsen found it virtually impossible to deliver aid directly to the needy as North Korean officials demanded all aid be consigned to them directly ― this way they could sell it on the black market while the masses starved or died for want of medical supplies.
One particularly sad photo sequence taken by Vollertsen showed a young, cadaverous boy dying of starvation while the North Korean officials refused to administer the aid which international donors allotted.
Is this Prof. McCann's definition of humanity? Of course, the sunshine policy aid did help Kim Jong-il to pay for the services of his personal Japanese chef, Keinji Fujimoto, who prepared sushi and other delicacies suited to Kim's palate while dancers and singers regaled Kim Jong-il and his guests.
Fujimoto was employed while Kim Dae-jung was pursuing his sunshine policy.
The fact that $500 million was funneled to the North prior to the summit taints Kim Dae-jung's Nobel Peace Prize in the eyes of most Koreans, not to mention foreigners.
Does Prof. McCann believe Kim Dae-jung was in the dark about his advisor, Park Jie-won, and the $500 million payoff to North Korea via Hyundai Asan Corp., which the North demanded before agreeing to a summit?
Of course, the Peace Prize is the most political of Nobel prizes to begin with, hardly in the same league as the scientific awards which are awarded on objective criteria. It seems ``humanity'' was secondary to politics in the much-ballyhooed North-South summit and the subsequent awarding of the prize.
I also wonder if McCann is an adversary of free speech as Kim Dae-jung has shown himself to be. Does he think books should be banned and critics muzzled with libel suits? Why not debate issues in open public forums?
Kim Dae-jung's government imposed a virtual ban on Lee U-jong's satirical comic book, ``Introduction to Kim Jong-il: the truth about the honorable North Korean shogun.''
Yet it sold over 250,000 copies in Japan. Is book banning the mark of a democrat and humanitarian? Should South Koreans be prevented from reading a comic book about a tyrant? Censorship is hardly a hallmark of humanity.
And now Kim Dae-jung is trying to silence the press again, as evidenced by his recent libel suit against the news weekly Ilyo Seoul which published the allegations of Kim Ki-sam, a former South Korean intelligence officer who was recently given asylum by the U.S. government.
If Kim Ki-sam's claims to the effect that Kim Dae-jung had the National Intelligence Service bribe North Korea for the summit are false, why not refute them in the press instead of trying to silence the accusations? Let the people read both sides of the debate in an open forum and come to their own conclusions.
Humanity isn't about ignoring flagrant human rights abuses, banning books and silencing critics. I think Prof. McCann would agree, although Kim Dae-jung obviously doesn't.
Ross R. Zarub is an associate professor at Myongji University in Seoul. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.