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[Opinion] Flights Between China and Taiwan

Posted July. 06, 2008 04:20,   


Another historic milestone was added to the history of divided nations. Friday, regular flights between China and Taiwan were resumed. Eighteen passenger planes taking off from five cities in China and six in Taiwan flew to the other end with more than 1,000 travelers on board. The estranged nations of China and Taiwan were linked through the skyway for the first time in 59 years. It is an event as historic as the collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the first inter-Korean summit on June 15, 2000.

Every weekend 36 planes will fly directly between China and Taiwan on a regular schedule. In the case of Chinese nationals, a maximum of 3,000 a day can travel in Taiwan for 10 days at most, beginning from July 18. A year later, the limit on the number of travelers will be removed. Awaiting the launch of the flights, Taiwan permitted the circulation and exchange of Chinese yuan within the nation from June 30. Not only Chinese travelers but also Taiwanese can buy and sell 20,000 yuan (about 3 million won) per person. The Chinese and Taiwanese people may well feel excited about all of the change.

The replacement of the regime in Taiwan triggered the rapid reconciliation between China and Taiwan. Taiwan`s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, implemented the China-friendly policies immediately after his inauguration on May 20, and realized an era of direct flights between the two nations in about a month and a half. The amelioration of mood between the two nations came so swiftly that some Taiwanese have even complained of dizziness and raised voices of caution. Also surprising is the change in attitude of China, which did not hesitate to make military threats during the term of the former President Chen Shui-bian, an avid seeker of Taiwan’s independence. The Chinese made their wisdom known by putting a half-public organization at the negotiation table instead of the government.

We envy the launch of direct flights between China and Taiwan. To resolve distrust and recover national homogeneity, South and North Koreans should be able to contact each other freely at least as travelers. It is a pity that we Koreans are so far from launching regular direct flights, even after holding two inter-Korean summits. Summits are not a sufficient means to resolve the deep-rooted distrust between South and North Korea. Inter-Korean relations are shifting into an ice-age. Both Koreas should approach the matter from a pragmatic point of view as in the China and Taiwan direct-flight model. Sadly, though, the reality is that North Korea is rejecting food aid from South Korea while its citizens are starving to death.