Getting the picture in South Korea


A chara, – The situation in the Korean peninsula is considerably less clear-cut that it may appear to those privy to selected information.

In a predominantly conservative country where the media does not criticise the government’s actions, there is also considerable distrust in the Lee administration’s accusations against North Korea.  It is election time in South Korea at present and the deeply unpopular president Lee Myung-bak is fighting for political survival following a stream of unpopular manoeuvres with which he began his term of office.

There is a belief that this catastrophe was not North Korea’s doing. Comparisons have been made with the United States’ invasion of Iraq, and Hilary Clinton’s arrival on the scene and the renewal of stronger co-operation between the United States and South Korea, have further highlighted questions of collusion.

President Lee has been eager to confront North Korea following almost 10 years of the “Sunshine Policy” initiated by the Nobel Laureate, Kim Dae Jung. Lee’s provocative declaration to “maintain the principle of proactive deterrence” outside the Korean War Memorial sent a clear signal of the government’s intentions to change the national approach. Nationalism is serious business in South Korea and Lee has tapped the right vein during election season.

People are unconvinced by the government’s delayed response to the sinking of the ship, and they also question how the state-of-art Cheonan equipped with torpedo detection devices and the latest sonar could be actually sunk? The nature of the international investigation, led by the Korean military and supported by the United States military, is also highly questionable.

Koreans have called for an independent and transparent investigation of the accident but the government continues to swing its handbag in the face of an easily provoked foe. China’s reluctance to act on this matter is likely to have been triggered by these facts also. South Korea and the international community have more to lose than the country with the largest military in the world, North Korea.

A clearer picture must be painted of this situation if an international reaction via the United Nations is to be processed. – Is mise,


Full-time Lecturer, School of English Language and Culture,

Kyung Hee University,

Seocheon-dong, Giheung-gu,

Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do,

S Korea.