If I were the President
By Kim Heung-sook
I can’t neglect the citrons and leave them wither away, although my heart is on my conscripted nephew and the inter-Korean relations ever since the North Korean attack of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23. My nephew was summoned to his military base from a long-awaited vacation at home in Seoul shortly after the incident. While I wash citrons and remove water from their faces, my head is busy thinking political ifs.
If I were the President, I would call North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and offer to see him at the earliest possible date. I would tell him I could go to Pyongyang, Mt. Geumgang, the truce village of Panmunjom or anywhere he chose. If he asked for food and/or fertilizer as a precondition for the meeting, I would say ``yes” and work out a timetable for shipping immediately.
I would bring CDs and LPs containing olden-day Korean songs, particularly ``The Tearful Tuman River,” which Kim’s father and all other independence fighters used to sing in the 1930s while fighting against the Japanese colonialists. I would also bring a parcel of gifts for Kim’s heir, Jong-un: a copy of the late patriot Kim Ku’s autobiography, a packet of buckwheat tea good for diabetes and a book of Hermann Hesse, among others.
If I sat with the senior Kim in private, I would tell him about the pain he had caused to his fellow Koreans by the artillery attack, about how terrified those over 70 were, having experienced the Korean War (1950-1953) in their youth. I would tell him that I wouldn’t want to see such things happen again. I would remind him of the human and property losses during and after the three-year fratricidal war and tell him that we couldn’t afford to lose more lives.
I would remind him of our ages and the not too many remaining days. Six and a half decades had passed since the division of the Korean peninsula and now was the right time to think seriously of reunifying the two halves, I would say. History remembers people not for their titles but for their deeds and no other achievement could beat national reunification, I would tell him.
I would ask him what I can and should do to let the families divided in South and North Korea meet whenever they liked. I would try my best to kindle the rational side of his psyche so that he could conclude that the two Koreas didn’t have to be enemies now. I would ask him who would benefit if our two sides engage in armed conflicts. Smart as he is, he would know that it wouldn’t be us.
I would propose setting up sisterhood relations between villages and towns of both Koreas and inter-Korean exchange of people, i.e., students of each level school and residents of sister villages. I would propose hosting blind dates for unmarried men and women, and widows and widowers of both sides.
I would suggest inter-Korean trade of commodities and raw materials. I would propose stationing soldiers from both sides on Dokdo in the East Sea and all the islands around the peninsula, including the five islets off the West Coast ― Baengnyeong Island, Daecheong Island, Socheong Island, Yeonpyeong Island and Woo Island.
I would promise to repeal the National Security Law which marked the 62nd anniversary of its enactment on Wednesday. I would admit that it has sometimes been abused to restrict the freedom of the press and persecute the left-leaning forces in the south.
If our conversation happened to touch the recent WikiLeaks reports in which Chinese officials described North Korea as ``a spoiled child,” I would remind him that such unpleasant remarks were not new in the world of diplomacy, especially when it came to officials of the so-called superpowers talking about smaller nations. I would tell him that was exactly why our two sides shouldn’t fight but co-exist and prosper through mutual support until we became one again.
It is remarkable that we humans can do practical things while our hearts are away on other matters. I have washed the citrons and rubbed their watery surface. All I need to do is slice them and mix them with sugar. Although I don’t have a sweet tooth, I should go out and buy quite some amount of sugar because ``Spare the sugar, spoil the citron tea.” Sugar and time, that makes wonderful citron tea. And citron tea doesn’t seem to be the only thing that needs sugar and time to be good.