Controversies over Shin Eun-mi

Stories and pictures of a Korean-American, Shin Eun-mi, have been all over the newspapers and televisions these days. I feel sad as a fellow Korean-American whenever I read those articles. It is fine that she visited North Korea and said she’s only seen good things there, but I cannot understand why she had to come to South Korea and make unnecessary remarks such as “North Koreans are full of expectations and hope about their young leader Kim Jong-un” that turn South Korea upside down.

The leader that Shin praised is actually a dictator that the whole world despises. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights submitted to the General Assembly a 400-page report on the crimes against humanity that Kim Jong-un had committed, and the General Assembly passed a resolution to refer the case to the International Criminal Court in overwhelming support (111 for vs. 19 against). In this resolution, there are detailed descriptions of the unspeakable atrocities, such as cruel tortures and rapes that occurred in prison camps. I heard that North Korean defectors who escaped from those prison camps cried together after reading the stories of their horrible experiences.

These North Korean defectors have been infuriated by Shin’s remarks such as “things are not as bad in North Korea as their defectors have said,” or “80-90 percent of North Korean defectors want to return to the North.” To the defectors who challenged her for a debate on the reality of the North, her rather curious answer that it would not help the reunification of the two Koreas to have a debate to decide on whose North Korea and whose perspective is real and right.

Shin may have been treated like a VIP during her visit in North Korea, and may have been swayed by its propaganda, which was specifically produced to get visitors to believe that the North was not as bad as North Korean defectors had said. When she came to South Korea, she may have been in a kind of ecstasy from being in the spotlight. Surrounding her with numerous cameras and questions of reporters wherever she went, the media attention was so intense that it could have made her feel like an actress heading to an Academy Awards ceremony. I can hardly understand why each of her talks drew nearly 200 people who paid 15,000 won for a ticket. It must have made the organizers happy and led them to have a nationwide tour.

There was concern that a bad thing could happen to her if her talks continued, despite peoples’ animosity. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), someone threw an explosive in the lecture hall during one of her talks and injured two people, creating chaos. It could have been a big disaster. Meanwhile, why were the police unable to expect that an incident like this would happen? In the U.S., the police would have isolated Shin as a public safety threat and have recommended her to immediately leave the country for the reason that the police cannot guarantee her safety. If this had happened, it would have prevented such an incident where an 18-year-old high school student threw an explosive and was sent to prison.

It is fully understandable if the government has been cautious because Shin is a U.S. citizen, but I think that she should be punished by the law if her talks violated the National Security Law. I am worried that anti-American protests will occur again if the government gives the impression that it is granting her a privilege for being a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. would not praise Shin’s behavior ― based on an incorrect, biased view about North Korea ― that hurt our feelings in the name of helping reunification. It would be advisable to use diplomatic channels between the two countries to avoid a misunderstanding by explaining that there is a limit to tolerance even though South Korea as a democratic country respects individual freedom.

I believe that South Korea as a whole is also morally responsible for Shin’s case. If they simply ignored her and her talks, things would have fizzled out. If I had been surrounded by such a fuss, I would also have made some gaffes from excitement. I do not know how much effect her talks had on people, but I do not believe that anyone in this country have changed their mind because of her words. Unless there was a mastermind organization that controlled her from behind, I think South Korea should treat the whole thing simply as a one-time happening and go on with their lives together.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/12/305_170342.html

Task Force Smith Memorial Park interview with Kyeongin Ilbo

926267_487829_5500In his interview with Kyeongin Ilbo on December 18, Jay Kim talked about Osan City’s project to build a memorial park for Task Force Smith.

Kim thanked Osan City for its plan for the memorial park. The plan quickly moved forward after he visited the U.N. Forces First Battle Monument and the Jukmyreong battlefield near Osan in October 2013.

Thinking that “Koreans should not forget about the sacrifice of the fallen members of Task Force Smith that fought to the death at Jukmyreong to defend freedom and peace,” he proposed and agreed with Osan City to “commemorate their will to defend freedom and promote it as a symbol of the alliance between Korea and the U.S.”

“Jukmyreong was the place where Task Force Smith which participated in the Korean War as part of the U.N. forces fought its first battle,” Kim said about the historical significance of the battle and battlefield. “181 of them died during the fierce battle against North Korean fleets of tanks, but they accomplished a great achievement of delaying the southward advancement of North Korean troops.”

Thus, Kim spread the news of the efforts to commemorate this meaningful sacrifice and history through U.S. media, and has been collecting historical items related with the Jukmyreong battle from the members and families of Task Force Smith.

Recently, he talked about these efforts with House Representative Charles Rangel who participated in the Korean War. This led to Rangel’s giving a speech about the significance and importance of Osan City’s project for the memorial park, which was officially left on the congressional record.

Closing the interview, he hoped that “Osan City will build the memorial park in cooperation with the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and other institutions related with the project without any serious trouble, and will plant 540 trees for the 540 members to remind later generations of the significance of the battle.”

http://www.kyeongin.com/?mod=news&act=articleView&idxno=926267

Korea-U.S. Defense of Freedom Memorial Park

PYH2014022607320006101_P2On December 9, House Representative Charles Rangel expressed his support for the project to build the “Korea-U.S. Defense of Freedom Memorial Park” on the House floor, putting his support into the congressional record.

The park is intended to commemorate the sacrifices of Task Force Smith during the Korean War. It is part of the commemoration project for Task Force Smith that Osan City has been carrying out in cooperation with Jay Kim.   http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2014/12/09/0200000000AKR20141209016800071.HTML

Long way to go to end racism

Everyone probably knows that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was the hero who led the emancipation of American slaves. President Lincoln’s struggle for emancipation was truly heroic. In January 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect, and in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was passed.

However, southern plantation owners would not easily give up slaves whom they had exploited for so long. The Civil War broke out, and it killed nearly 600,000 people, most of whom were white. Due to the emancipation, President Lincoln was re-elected with overwhelming support, but he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. only 45 days into his second term by John Wilkes Booth, an actor from the South.

Though a steep price was paid for emancipation, Americans praised it as a just and brave decision. Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves was extolled throughout the world. Later, heroes of black Americans like Martin Luther King emerged to fight with their lives against the social inequality that black people suffered in the U.S.

Even after King was assassinated at the hands of white people, the great message of his “I Have a Dream” speech continued to spread, and the status of black people steadily improved in the U.S. The U.S. Congress passed numerous bills to prevent discrimination against black Americans, as well as other minorities, including Asian Americans.

As racial discrimination gradually disappeared, more black Americans have entered colleges by taking advantage of admission preference programs, and after graduation, many black American were able to enter many high offices of the government. A black judge was appointed in the Supreme Court, and many black people, such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, rose to brilliant heights. It is also true that much effort was made to improve the socio-economic status of black people by providing various assistance programs for their businesses.

However, psychological resistance against preferential policies for black people upset some white people, some of whom believed they were put at a disadvantage because of the preference given to black people. There was a significant backlash from white people, especially those who thought they were the target of reverse discrimination.

Furthermore, while the whole nation welcomed the election of a black president when President Obama won overwhelmingly, it is also true that the anxiety of some white Americans who oppose the progress of history was worsening as they watched the continued expansion of equal rights for black people.

There are as many kinds of discrimination in this world as there are kinds of people. Among them, religious discrimination and racial discrimination would be the most serious problems. Even now, it is happening around the world that people are killed for religious differences. It would not be easy as well to get rid of social prejudice against black people, no matter how strict the laws might be, because racial discrimination is so entrenched.

These days, the Korean media has been reporting the incidents of police shooting black people in an implicitly critical tone, using words like “Rage of Ferguson” and “A white officer, within two seconds [of arriving] at the site, shot and killed a black boy holding a toy gun.” An overwhelming number media reports and newspaper articles are questioning how such incidents could happen in the U.S., a nation always calling for human rights.

Whenever I read a news article about the U.S., it gives me an impression that the U.S. is a frightening place where one might be shot and killed anytime. But according to a poll in the past, almost 100 percent of black Americans answered that they liked their country and were proud to be Americans. Asked in which country they would prefer to live in, most chose the U.S., and none chose an Asian country. Despite the apparent racial conflict, the U.S. is still the homeland to which black Americans feel attached.

Although Europe has a reputation for being a good place to live, a white policeman shot a young black man to death in London in August 2011. Looting and arson followed across the country, leading to much larger riots than those in Ferguson. Then or now, white people wanted and still want police power to be expanded to make it even stronger, with their prejudice that automatically associates black people with criminals.

According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of criminal incidents committed involving black teenagers was higher than the number involving white teenagers: six times higher in homicide, 10 times higher in theft, and three times higher in rape and violence.

Unfortunately, whenever they read a report like this, people form negative opinions about black people, and this social prejudice incites further crimes involving black people. Thus the vicious cycle continues.

Still, racial discrimination has decreased remarkably since I first came to the U.S. I am certain that the racial problems in the U.S. will improve gradually over time with a united effort from the government and the people. We Korean Americans should be much more sympathetic to racial discrimination against blacks. After all, without Dr. King, Asian Americans would not be able to enjoy special minority programs.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/12/305_169505.html