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[Opinion] Stop Politicizing Security

Posted January. 02, 2007 03:01,   


A good historic example of political strife over security issues would be a dispute that took place in the Joseon Dynasty over whether or not to build up a 100,000-strong military. Yi Yulgok, who became the minister of defense in 1582, urged that a disastrous consequence would follow within a decade unless the country beefed up its military by increasing its number of soldiers to 100,000. However, his voice was discarded in the midst of fierce factional wrangling. “Reinforcing the military in peacetime is like raising a tiger to bring misfortune,” Yu Seong-ryong, the chief secretary of the king, argued.

After ten years in 1592, Japan invaded Korea, precisely as Yi predicted a decade ago. Those who were against strengthening the military could not see the looming crisis because they were ignorant of the changing international situation and excessively preoccupied with internal politics. Those foolish antagonists remind us of the incumbent government, which has done nothing but weaken the country’s alliance with the U.S. while calling themselves progressive forces. I guess it is true that history repeats itself.

At the onset of the New Year, Foreign Minister Song Min-soon made a statement that urged supra-partisan efforts to stop politicizing security issues. However, his remark is likely to trigger another controversy.

“I think security issues shouldn’t be politicized,” Song said during an interview with the press. That’s precisely what should be done. But who brought security issues onto the political arena first? Is it true that conflicts between Korea and the U.S. were unavoidable for better bilateral ties in the future? Did the media exaggerate the conflicts and make the problem worse? Song must know the answers for these questions better than anyone. If President Roh Moo-hyun did not upset the U.S. without any practical gain, the bilateral relations between the allies would not have become this serious.

The government must not regard concerns and advice on security from all levels of society as partisan confrontation. The incumbent administration must remember that it continuously politicized security issues by pursuing early transfer of wartime operational control, downplaying the North Korean nuclear weapons test, ignoring advices from veterans, distorting truth about the Korean War, attempting reduction of the military service term, and making contemptuous remarks about the military. We must not repeat silly mistake of our ancestors who fully trusted a diplomatic mission who claimed the Japanese would never invade Korea, based on the fact that Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi was small and ugly.

Yook Jung-soo, Editorial Writer, sooya@donga.com