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[Kim Seong-kon] ‘Paradise regained?’ Nightmares in dreamland

Even in dreamland, nightmares can infiltrate. Heaven was not an exception: Lucifer rebelled against God and fell down to this mundane world. The same goes for the Garden of Eden. Due to the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel, Satan, paradise is lost.

Those who voted for Yoon Suk-yeol as the next president of South Korea are now breathing a sigh of relief, saying, “The nightmare is over, at last.” Nevertheless, that does not mean South Korea has regained paradise. Perhaps the worst nightmare may be over, and yet other nightmares are still lurking ahead of us.

The most gripping nightmare is indisputably the nuclear weapons in North Korea, aimed squarely at us. Recently, North Korea test-launched a long-range supersonic ICBM that can even reach the east coast of the US. The world is concerned, and the White House immediately condemned it. Japan, too, criticized the reckless provocations of North Korea, and it is certainly a challenge to the incoming administration of South Korea, as well.

What would happen if North Korea compulsively attacked South Korea, using nuclear missiles? It would be catastrophic to us, as it would annihilate major cities and massacre numerous people. Some people naively believe that North Korea would never use nuclear weapons against the South, and the lethal weapons would come to be ours when the unification happens. However, it is nothing but a naïve daydream. Experts in Washington, DC. warn that the North’s nuclear attack against the South is highly plausible and North Korea’s ultimate purpose is to unify the Korean Peninsula under the banner of socialism, which is formerly communism.

What would happen, then, if North Korean politicians bargained with the US that they would not strike major American cities if the White House winked at their attack on South Korea? It is likely that Washington would not risk American cities in order to protect South Korea where anti-American sentiment is persisting and a Korean radical attacked a US Ambassador with a knife. If such a thing were to happen, it would be undoubtedly nightmarish for South Korea. To prevent such a disaster, we need to strengthen our ties with the US.

Another nightmare is if one of our neighboring countries might insist that historically the Korean Peninsula is a part of it and try to annex Korea. That is precisely what is happening in Ukraine, and what is likely to happen in Taiwan. South Korea, too, is vulnerable to such impertinent aggressions and should be prepared.

When I visited Russia in 2014, I found Putin’s popularity to be very high among the Russian people. They thought that Putin was able to restore their national pride, which had been hurt or lost during the fall of the Soviet Union. Many Russians I met were nostalgic about those good old days when Russia was strong and ruled Eastern Europe and Central Asia. At that time, I already had a hunch that Russia would do something wrong in the near future. Nostalgia is nostalgia. You cannot bring back the past.

Internally, too, we are living in a nightmare landscape. Currently, the number of the COVID-19 infected in South Korea has surged to 10 million. People cynically mutter that it means approximately one in every home is infected. Business is bad, too. One out of 5 restaurants have reportedly closed, and 57 percent of restaurant owners are seriously considering shutting down due to the spread of omicron. Recently, the Washington Post carried an article entitled, “South Korea’s coronavirus infection rate soars to one of the world’s highest with omicron-fueled surge.” Our politicians used to deride advanced countries for their inability to contain the pandemic. Today, however, Korea is embarrassingly on top of the warning list of travel advisory in advanced countries.

The nightmare landscape suffocates us, as we hear that the Democratic Party of Korea is determined to incapacitate the incoming Yoon administration by thwarting all of its new policies, using its dominant presence in the National Assembly and heads of government institutions appointed by the current administration. Instead of reflecting on what they did wrong to lose the election, they vow to make Yoon a helpless, “vegetative” president by blocking his path. According to the late culture critic, Lee O-young, however, we cannot underestimate the power of plants. Unlike animals that have to move constantly in order to survive, plants do not need to worry about safety and can attract bees and butterflies without moving.

The clash between the outgoing Moon administration and the incoming Yoon administration is also creating another nightmare landscape. The outgoing administration should exert discretion and decency to make the transition of power easy and smooth; it is not democratic to obstruct the incoming administration’s policies. The incoming administration, too, should spend time on more urgent issues, instead of the petty squabbles with the outgoing administration over the relocation of the new president’s office.

In order to live in a dreamland, we should awaken from nightmares that haunt us. We should regain the lost paradise.

Kim Seong-kon
Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (