The Northern Limit Line

The Northern Limit Line (NLL) is a maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas. Established on Aug. 30, 1953, after the end of the Korean War, North Korea would not challenge the line until 1973. As a result, the NLL has been the de facto maritime boundary between the two Koreas in the West Sea.

In 1973, when North Korea challenged the NLL, the United Nations Command dismissed the North’s demands as unacceptable claims that violated the terms and spirit of the armistice agreement.

Several times after this, the United Nations Command has made it clear that the NLL is a strict maritime boundary, one that the two Koreas have accepted and complied with for more than 40 years.

In September 1999, North Korea, breaking its acceptance of the NLL, unilaterally announced its West Sea Military Demarcation Line, for which it claimed its people would risk their lives. With this line, the North claimed that even the four South Korean islands located further south of the NLL (Yeongpyeongdo, Baengnyeongdo, Daecheongdo and Socheongdo) were the North’s territory. But the Kim Dae-jung administration sternly rejected this claim from the North.

Unexpectedly, however, South Korea is now in an uproar about the transcript of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s remarks on the NLL during his summit with Kim Jong-il. This situation demonstrates how South Korea is different from the U.S.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president, in 1963 was one of the biggest incidents in modern U.S. history. In the U.S., important records like those about the investigation of the assassination of a president are released to the public after 50 years. But, as several unsettling conspiracy theories were prevalent in society, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992, 29 years after the assassination.

According to this Act, the Assassination Records Review Board was formed to gather and release related records, which will be completed by Oct. 26, 2017. The documents were 500,000 pages in total, and one of the problems that arose when compiling this much information was that the CIA, a U.S. intelligence agency, refused to disclose 10 percent of the documents, the final 50,000 pages of documents.

This led to a political controversy in the U.S. Now, 50 years after the JFK assassination, most Americans do not care about the assassination. Rather, they are displeased with the demand from part of Congress to disclose the remaining 10 percent. The issue is over now.

This is not the case in South Korea. Each party only tries to use the NLL issue for its benefit. I don’t think that they are fighting with a genuine intent to let people know more fully about the dialogue in the summit. People, instead, will be more confused about why it is even important whether or not the late President Roh agreed with Kim Jong-il to make a peace zone area between the NLL and the line that North Korea announced unilaterally.

The NLL cannot be changed at Kim Jong-il’s will, as it is our demarcation line which was established by the North’s agreement with the United Nations Command. It is our line of defense for our territory, which 40 young soldiers of our country gave their lives to defend.

Fortunately, a team of 10 members of the National Assembly, five from the ruling party and five from the opposition party, has been formed to review the full transcript of the 2007 summit meeting between the two Koreas, which has been kept by the National Archives of Korea. Strangely, according to reports, the National Archives has not been able to find the original transcript.

This sounds like a detective story, and it seems that fights over this issue will become fiercer. In my opinion, each side should stop fighting and make this an occasion to gather the will to defend our territory by clearly revealing what happened.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon U.S.-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at http://www.jayckim.com.

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Culture of alcohol consumption must be changed

In 1919, the U.S. Congress passed, and 46 states ratified, the 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The amendment, which was made partly due to strong protests from women’s temperance movements, completely banned the production, transportation and sales of alcohol in the U.S. Furthermore, this prohibition was not just any law, but a part of the Constitution.

The reason why the U.S. banned alcohol by the extreme measure of amending its Constitution was that numerous crimes were caused by alcohol intoxication. People were sick and tired of drunkenness being used by suspects as a shameless excuse for lack of memory of committing horrible crimes like sexual assaults.

Unfortunately, due to this prohibition, organized crime thrived on the illegal production and distribution of alcohol. The territorial expansion among gangs led to shootouts on the street in broad daylight, and their growing power struck terror into the citizenry. Al Capone, who was depicted in several gangster movies, was the most notorious gang leader.

Ultimately, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, on Dec. 21, 1933. After this, the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol was legalized in the U.S., but the government’s crackdown on illegal alcohol intoxication has become very strict. For instance, in the case of being arrested for a D.U.I. (driving under the influence of alcohol), a driver loses his or her driver’s license almost without any exception, and it is difficult for the owner of a bar to avoid punishment if alcohol is sold there to minors who appear to be drunk.

However, in Korea, there are still too many crimes caused by alcohol intoxication. There is no end to alcohol-induced crimes, such as a drunken person beating police officers and breaking facilities in a police station, or a reckless drunk driver killing six teenagers at once. Those who committed these crimes always say that they do not remember because they were drunk, and Korean society is quite generous to these people. Korea is known for its high consumption of alcohol, which is ranked second only to the Czech Republic. Koreans are the only people who wander around bars to drink “bomb shots” on their way home from work.

Drinking has been a part of Korean life for a long time. Over a drink, we share friendship, songs, and poems. But, instead of the traditional rice wine of the past, people drink whiskey, which makes them drunk quicker, while living in a society that has become busier and harsher. As a result, drinking has lost its romantic element and has become harmful to the order of our society.

These days, accidents where hikers got drunk and fell on their way down from a mountain have been reported frequently on TV. According to the reports, more than 90 percent of the accidents of mountain hikers are due to alcohol. These accidents are usually called “victimless crimes” in the sense that they do not hurt others. But, strictly speaking, there are victims. To rescue a hiker so drunk to have lost consciousness requires a helicopter and several rescue workers bringing various pieces of equipment. The costs are enormous, and they are paid by taxpayers. I think that heavy fines should be imposed on those hikers to pay for the costs. Without heavy punishment, it is not possible to prevent accidents such as the falling of drunken hikers.

In California, the State Legislature passed Proposition 184 in 1994. It was proposed by private citizens and supported by 72 percent of the population. This proposition, which is also well-known in Korea, was a “three strikes” law that sends a person who has committed three crimes, even if they are nonviolent felonies, to jail. Those who commit their third crimes due to alcohol are also sent to jail without any exception. After the enactment of this act, the number of crimes was reduced by two-thirds, and the cost of prison expansion was much lower than the cost of damages from crimes. As a result, many other states passed similar laws in a hurry. Currently, nearly 30 states have this kind of law in the U.S.

Now is the time for us to change our culture of drinking. The strongest method to reduce violent crimes induced by alcohol is to make those who commit such crimes pay a high price.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon U.S.-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at http://www.jayckim.com.