Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Whose responsibility?

Whose problem are the North Koreans? Whose responsibility is it to clean up the mess? Who should be taking in the refugees? Is it wrong to assume that South Korea should be taking in most of them? If it is not wrong, what is the basis for putting this onus on South Korea's shoulders, a South Korea which has already taken in thousands when other countries have taken in virtually none?

This comment over at
Oranckay's, in reference to the purported beating by North Korean border guards of a North Korean woman, made me think:
Kind of makes you wonder why so many people in SK think the NK should be considered blood brothers worthy of camaraderie.
“Worthy of camaraderie”? I’ve never heard it put that way. I’ve heard people express ideas that North Koreans deserve concern, help, assistance, a way out of their misery, etc., because they are “brothers” (which is an ethnic connection, not an ideological one; on the other hand, I have frequently heard “blood brothers” or “blood ties” used to characterize the US-ROK relationship). It seems to me that there is a quite a bit of inaccurate supposition in the interpretation of the "brothers" statement, and no small measure of disingenuousness.

It seems Western critics of Korea have put Korea in a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" situation. Most everyone is suggesting—by their inaction if not by direction statemetn—that South Korea should be the country most concerned and most responsible about North Korean refugees. But on what justification? Ethnic and historic ties? Is this not acknowledgement by non-Koreans that there is in fact a "brotherly" connection between the two?

But when South Koreans talk about being “brothers” with North Koreans—the very same concept their critics are tacitly making—they are derided for a whole host of sins, from racism against non-Koreans, to abandonment of the US-ROK alliance, to not caring about North Koreans.

The onus on South Korea is not a legal one, not with US legislation now calling for taking in North Korean refugees. But where are the towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin full of former DPRK citizens now seeking a new life?

The North-South relationship is murky, complex, and highly dysfunctional—the death of millions of innocents has that effect, especially when the circumstances remain completely unresolved. It cannot be compared with the relationship between, say, the US and Vietnam. You're not just dealing with a murderous neighbor, but a murderous neighbor holding your relatives hostage, and half of the hostages have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and not only don't want to be rescued, but they are now pointing guns and knives at the other hostages.

To keep at arm's length and in the gun sights, to try to reach out and see if a friendly hand is received in a friendly way or if it can be used to convince a distrustful enemy of desire for friendship—or a combination of everything. It's murky enough, but when your real-life aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, are up there, it's all the more complex. And when you consider that the people in charge up there killed your real-life aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, etc., down here, it's even more complex.

Who your brother is, that "racist" concept Western critics of Korea (or East Asia in general) like to deride, is inextricably caught up in any calculation about what to do about North Korea. It's inescapable. That's the first thing the Western critics must realize.

The second thing they must acknowledge is that anything other than a much more equal sharing of the refugee mess among the powers-that-be in this region (and this might extend beyond South Korea, Japan, the US, China, and Russia), is a tacit acknowlegement of the validity of the "brothers" concept.

Unless you want North Korean refugees living in Anoka, Minnesota, or La Crosse, Wisconsin, give the self-righteous criticism a rest.

1 comment:

  1. Kushibo : "It seems Western critics of Korea have put Korea in a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t""

    These are the same folks who say when japan and u.s govt give food aid to n.k(which they haven't done in a while), they're helping starving n.k people, yet when s.k send food aid to the north, it's crazy lefties of s.k helping to prolong n.k's communist regime..


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