South Korean fiction writer Han Kang contributed to the New York Times her concerns about the ongoing North Korean nuclear threat and the war clouds over the Korean Peninsula. It is understandable that she resented President Trump and his hawkish rhetoric, but it has left me more questions than it solved.
She wrote, “We (South Koreans) naturally distinguish between dictatorships and those who suffer under them, we try to respond to circumstances holistically, going beyond the dichotomy of good and evil.” Although her sympathy for “North Koreans under dictatorship” stood out humane, she did not mention anything about the real threat posed by Kim Jong-un. I would like to ask her, first and foremost, how we should respond the crisis “beyond the dichotomy of good and evil” because I believe Kim Jong-un is evil. Although she continued to use “we” instead of “I” to offer her opinion, I am confident that more South Koreans would see Kim Jong-un as evil.
Second, Han Kang assumed as if only South Koreans suffered specifically traumatic memories of war, and Americans, particularly President Trump, would not understand it. To emphasize the fear deeply embedded in the Koreans’ mind, she introduced us a story of a 70-year-old man who had his money stolen. She analyzed, “Since the Korean War broke out in 1950, war would have been the enduring experience of this man’s adolescence. I imagine what he would have been feeling, a man who has lived an ordinary middle-class life ever since, on his way to the bank to take out his savings. The terror, the unease, the impotence, the nervousness.” All right. Here is another question for her, “Who started the Korean War in 1950? And who started the nuclear threat in 2017?” She also repeatedly preached the American readers the importance of peace and humanistic values, and I find it pointless because it is not the Americans but Kim Jong-un and his henchmen who have started this crisis.
To Han Kang, however, the real threat is Americans ready to stab Koreans in the back. She wrote in her article, “In all wars and massacres there is a critical point at which human beings perceive certain other human beings as subhuman.” If so, she must know the autocrats of North Korea – Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un – have seen South Koreans as subhuman. Instead, while turning a blind eye to all the sacrifices the American soldiers have made to protect South Korea from the North Korean savagery as well as the numerous atrocities committed by the House of Kim Il-sung, she brought up the No Gun Ri massacre to argue that Americans have treated South Koreans like subhumans, “If they did not perceive the South Korean refugees as subhuman, if they had perceived the suffering of others completely and truly, as dignified human beings, would such a thing have been possible?” Speaking of refugees, I must confess that I have not found so far a single article she wrote about the North Korean refugees subjected to starvation, torture, summary execution, and human trafficking. If she plans to write one, I wish she does it soon.
Third, all of sudden in the last paragraphs, she began to praise the so-called candlelight revolution, “Hundreds of thousands of citizens gathered and sang together in protest against the corrupt government, holding candles in paper cups, shouting that the president should step down. I, too, was in the streets, holding up a flame of my own. At the time, we called it the “candlelight rally” or “candlelight demonstration”; we now call it our “candlelight revolution. We only wanted to change society through the quiet and peaceful tool of candlelight, and those who eventually made that into a reality.” I do not understand her point. Does she believe Kim Jong-un will stop the nuclear weapons development when he sees South Koreans sing and lift candles? Again, when will she learn that Kim Jong-un has started this crisis and the rest of the world, including South Korea, is responding to it? She seems so proud of shouting at President Park Geun-hye to step down, but has never asked Kim Jong-un to resign. Why?
Moreover, the candlelight revolution itself appears highly controversial and disputable as it is being reported that the tablet PC, the smoking gun to prove the Choi Soon-sil scandal, was fabricated and not genuine. Soon, the South Koreans who witnessed the candlelight revolution will have to draw a line between active citizenry and mob rule. I really wonder whether she will be then still proud of her participation in the “candlelight revolution” or regret her gullibility.
Speaking of gullibility, it is shamefully gullible if one still believes in “peace talks” with Kim Jong-un after all the years observing his cruelty, ruthlessness, and obsession with the nukes. Unfortunately, President Moon Jae-in is such a gullible figure who still looks forward to peace with the aggressor developing weapons of mass destruction. If Han Kang, a supporter of President Moon Jae-in, is so skeptical of the US-ROK alliance because she agrees with Moon’s controversial insistence on peace at any cost, she should have added to her article, “Absolute obedience can guarantee absolute peace” or said more frankly, “We want peace, even if we will have to succumb to Kim Jong-un.” In other words, the peace beyond the dichotomy of good and evil is no different from the subservience to evil.
The history teaches us that there is little room for idealism when you have a dangerous neighbor. Was Arthur Neville Chamberlain not humane enough to stop the war? Lastly, I cannot help asking her this question: did you shudder when Kim Jong-un tested the nukes and threatened us?