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Miracles of Han River and Daedong River

Posted March. 13, 2015 07:14,   


The Han River runs through the center of Seoul while the Daedong River winds its way through Pyongyang. Jwa Seung-hui, chair professor of the Park Chung Hee School of Policy and Saemaul at Yeungnam University, contended, “Admitting the current regime of North Korea, we have to transfer Park Chung-hee’s vision of `developmental dictatorship` to the North so that it could achieve `miracle of the Daedong River`" at a forum hosted by the National Unification Advisory Council on Wednesday. Professor Jwa’s point was that by passing down the know-how of “the miracle of the Han River” to the Kim Jong Un dictatorship, Pyongyang’s economy could be developed. It sounds like it makes sense. In fact, it is a naïve perspective.

Professor Jwa used to work as president of the Korea Economic Research Institute under the Federation of Korean Industries. The remark made by a conservative market economist was acclaimed by the liberals. It was the liberals that have never hesitated to compare Park Chung-hee’s developmental dictatorship to that of Hitler, but they welcomed the idea of imparting former President Park’s know-how to Kim Jong Un. They were implicitly acknowledging the achievement made by the former president`s developmental dictatorship, but it is based on ill-conceived premise. The liberals were implying that “since Park Chung-hee and Kim Jong Un are both dictators, why can’t Kim Jong Un do the things that Park Chung-hee did,” which, in fact, they cannot be convinced by themselves.

Germany achieved the miracle of the Rhine and the miracle of the Elbe in the former East Germany after nation’s unification. Once riddled with toxic pollutants, the Elbe was purified and Dresden in its riverside was born again as a modern industrial city. The miracle of the Elbe, however, was possible only after East Germany`s communist dictator Erich Honecker was gone. The developmental dictatorship literally refers to the dictatorship as a measure to develop the economy of a nation. It would be too much to expect that Kim Jong Un, the third generation of the Kim dynasty whose first priority must be to protect its lineage, sets up the same type of dictatorship as former President Park Chung-hee.

Author Lee Tae-joon, a South Korean defector to the North, wrote the novel “Paegangnaeng” during late Japanese imperialism. As Paegang is an old name of the Daedong River, Paegangnaeng means that the Daedong River has frozen up. Set in the Pyongyang, the novel metaphorically likened the city’s dismal situation to frozen Daedong River. There is a saying that goes “In Usu (one of the 24 seasons by the lunar calendar on around Feb. 18) and Gyeongchip (one of the 24 seasons by the lunar calendar referring to the end of hibernation), even the Daedong River starts to thaw.” It means that the Daedong River melts out later than the other rivers as it freezes for relatively longer period of time. It has already been 70 years since Korea was divided into two. If we wish to witness the miracle of the Daedong River, its water has to start thawing first.