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The Zaitoon and Kurds: Partners for Reconstruction, Security

The Zaitoon and Kurds: Partners for Reconstruction, Security

Posted October. 11, 2004 23:27,   


There is a saying in Kurdish, “The only friend that a Kurd has is the mountain.”

Within this saying lies a sad history. The Kurds have dwelled in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and the southern part of Soviet Union since approximately 4,000 years ago, but have had to endure the bitter sorrow of being without a country. Even with their population reaching 30 million and having an independent language and culture, they were not able to create an independent country. They did have a few opportunities, but they were taken advantage of every time and failed to win the independence that they desired. For that reason, the saying shows the Kurds are not trusting any country at all.

KDP leader Masud Barzani, gave a well-wishing remark when he met commanding officer Hwang Eui-don, saying, “From now on, the Kurds’ friend will change to the mountain and Koreans.”

These two ethnicities had continued without any contact for thousands of years. What kind of destiny will this fortuitous meeting of these two ethnicities that started with the dispatch of Korean troops will be recorded for future generations?

Common Interest in Harmony for Both-

For now, Korea and Kurds have complementary objectives, which lead them to a high possibility of establishing good ties. First, the Zaitoon unit is focusing on reconstructing peace rather than fighting or maintaining security. The Kurds expect their own militia to maintain security and the foreign troops (Korean troops) to concentrate on economic support only.

During a press interview with Korean reporters on October 10, Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani, the nephew of leader Barzani, firmly said, “Although the provisional government of Iraq is suggesting the disbanding of the militia, we cannot accept that at all.” The Kurds, who have a living standard similar to the late 1960s to the early 1970s of Korea, wish to learn about the know-how of economic aid and economic development in Korea.

The Kurds are able to maintain a pleasant atmosphere so that Korean troops will be able to concentrate on their economic reconstructing activities by guaranteeing the security of the Zaitoon troop and the Korean civilians living in Kurdish-controlled areas.

A Concern for an Unfortunate Affinity-

If one of the two parties pursues unilateral advantage, or if the affairs relating to Iraq or international affairs turn to an uncontrollable direction, then there also rises a possibility that this tie may end up as an unfortunate affinity.

If the Kurds pursue independence while incurring serious conflict with other ethnicities or their neighboring countries, it will become difficult for them to have complementary objectives with Korea, who has to consider their relations with the entire Arab region as well.

Korea’s economic aid should be accomplished based upon a deep understanding of the Kurds as well as what they want. We can learn a lesson from Japan’s case: the residents in Samawa of southern Iraq had too many expectations for Japan and developed a feeling of betrayal for Japan as the Self-Defense forces were not able to satisfy their expectations. The wrong kind of aid, which sets expectations too high or lacks understanding of the political situation or culture of Kurds can evoke an ill effect.