Column: North Korea’s attack cannot be tolerated

by Noritaka Egusa, Editorial Writer

Studying a map of Asia, the distance between the city of Hiroshima and Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea is about 700 kilometers. This is equal to the distance between Hiroshima and Chiba city in Japan. I was struck speechless by the artillery barrage that occurred not far from Hiroshima. Two civilians were killed in the attack.

When I saw the images of people struggling to flee the red flames of the assault, I recalled the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Ban spoke at the Peace Memorial Ceremony held in Hiroshima this past August 6. He told of his boyhood during the Korean War, sharing the memory of “marching along a muddy road into the mountains” with his village burning behind him. “All those lives lost, families destroyed…so much sadness,” he said.

That war is still not over. For more than half a century, North Korea and South Korea have been at loggerheads across their military boundary. Skirmishes have reportedly persisted around Yeonpyeong Island. But firing nearly 100 shells at an island on which resides 1,700 people, who are brethren of the North Koreans, is a barbaric act that crosses the line.

Some have pointed out that the reason behind such provocation lies in bolstering the position of Kim Jong-un, the third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, as successor of the nation fixed on hereditary power. Whatever rationale may be argued by North Korea, an attack against civilians cannot be tolerated, nor is this a persuasive excuse for launching a program to enrich uranium.

The final words of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung were reportedly: “The creation of a society where all its people can enjoy meals of rice and meat soup and wear silk clothes and live in tile-roofed houses.” If the current North Korean leaders values the people’s needs, they should not forget their wish to live free from war. Such governance is beyond my grasp. North Korea may be close geographically, but it is light-years distant politically.

(Originally published on November 25, 2010)