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[Opinion] Discrimination against Own People

Posted September. 22, 2007 08:45,   


Journalists covering international news often deprecate themselves by saying, “We can ignore the loss of 1,000 lives in India, but we have to write an article if 10 people are killed in the U.S.” They say that although the lives of each and every human being are precious, the newsworthiness of the same natural disaster occurring in a country with a population of more than one billion and in the superpower, the U.S., is not the same in reality. In fact, such discrimination can also be witnessed among Korean citizens.

The family members of South Korean fishermen, who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for the past four months, visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday to express their resentment. “The hostages in Somali are also Korean citizens as the (released) hostages in Afghanistan are. But why does the government treat the hostage cases so differently? Is it fair to rescue only the hostages abducted during their mission work in a country that the government said not to enter, whilst doing nothing for our family members who were kidnapped while working in order to make ends meet?” the families of the abducted fishermen asked. That is true. Who wouldn’t become furious while your family members in danger are being shunned by the government while others are rescued under the active support of the president himself?

Some may argue that more attention was paid to the Afghanistan hostage situation as it involved 23 hostages who had to endure constant death threats, whereas the Somalia hostage situation merely involves four fishermen who were kidnapped for a ransom. However, this is absolutely nonsense. The fishermen have also been spending each day in extreme fear. “They have been constantly beaten by pirates to the point where some of them now have chipped teeth and have ruptured eardrums,” the family members of the fishermen said. If it is true, the government should be more pro-active to resolve the hostage crisis. What has the National Intelligence Service done about the Somalia hostage situation? What has Kim Man-bok, chief of the National Intelligence Service, been doing all these days beside taking pictures with the rescued Afghanistan hostages and distributing a press release boasting his heroic feat?

However, Kim told the media that he would not hesitate to risk his life to protect the lives of Korean citizens. So he is saying that hostages in Somalia are foreign nationalities? Kim was praised by President Roh Moo-hyun, who visited the NIS yesterday, for rescuing hostages in Afghanistan. However, it’s important to note that if President Roh gave any thought about the families of the abducted fishermen, he would have expressed his concerns over the Somalia hostage situation, asking Kim to make efforts to rescue them as well. However, Roh apparently didn’t do that. We wonder what he would have done if one of his close aides was in those same shoes.

Bhang Hyeong-nam, Editorial Writer, hnbhang@donga.com