SK too tetchy on shared his­tory with China

Global Times US Edition - - EDITORIAL -

The South Korean me­dia has launched a new wave of na­tion­al­ism due to some re­marks US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made dur­ing a me­dia in­ter­view. How­ever, the South Korean me­dia has tar­geted China.

Ac­cord­ing to these me­dia out­lets, Trump noted to the Wall Street Jour­nal that when he met with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the Mar-a-Lago re­sort in Florida early this month, Xi told him that “Korea ac­tu­ally used to be a part of China.” Al­most all the South Korean me­dia have high­lighted this point and asked for clar­ity from China.

But ac­cord­ing to the US me­dia, Trump said, “He then went into the his­tory of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talk­ing about thou­sands of years … and many wars […] And after lis­ten­ing for 10 min­utes, I re­al­ized that it’s not so easy,” as he was re­fer­ring to China’s pressure on North Korea.

Nei­ther of these is an ex­act record of the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Trump and Xi dur­ing their meet­ing. Some me­dia ex­plained that there may have been men­tion that dur­ing the Han Dy­nasty ( 206BC-AD220), four “com­man­deries” in the northern part of Korea were set up, and dur­ing the Yuan Dy­nasty (1279-1368), the gov­ern­ment used to con­trol the king­dom of Go­ryeo. Trump may have be­lieved that this means Korea “used to be a part of China.”

Due to Trump’s free­wheel­ing style of speak­ing and given that all the in­for­ma­tion was re­leased by Trump, Seoul should go to Wash­ing­ton for an ex­pla­na­tion rather than ques­tion­ing Beijing.

The Korean Penin­sula had been in­ter­twined po­lit­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and eco­nom­i­cally with China in dif­fer­ent parts of his­tory. His­to­ri­ans from both sides hold dif­fer­ent opin­ions to­ward the na­ture of such a re­la­tion­ship.

South Korea has been par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive about it and de­bated fiercely with China in 2003 over the his­tory of Go­ryeo. China has never wanted to politi­cize that pe­riod of his­tory and showed a good­will ges­ture to cool down the de­bate. The talk be­tween Chi­nese and US lead­ers about the Korean Penin­sula sit­u­a­tion has boosted bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion and will shed light on how to ad­dress the North Korean nu­clear is­sue. The con­tent of the talks was made public long ago. Seoul, as a non-par­tic­i­pant in the talks, should not in­dulge in a diplo­matic con­fronta­tion against China over a few words from Trump.

So far, the South Korean for­eign min­istry has not made an of­fi­cial re­quest, which, if it does, will be dis­re­spect­ful. But the South Korean me­dia re­sorted to na­tion­al­ism, with some claim­ing this is “a grave chal­lenge to the iden­tity of the Korean peo­ple.”

His­tory is there, but some South Kore­ans want to re­move any con­nec­tion their coun­try had with an­cient China and re­quest China’s ab­so­lute re­spect for their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tory. This is nar­row-minded.

Chi­nese peo­ple re­spect the achieve­ments mod­ern South Korea has gained. Why do the South Kore­ans lack self-con­fi­dence? Mean­while, “Korea ac­tu­ally used to be a part of China” was said by Trump. Seoul should have the courage to ques­tion its ally.

Seoul, as a non­par­tic­i­pant in the talks, should not in­dulge in a diplo­matic con­fronta­tion against China over a few words from Trump.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Ab­dul Saeed/GT

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