Let’s give Kim Jong-un taste of democracy
Here are two columns — one about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s expected visit to Seoul and the other about Koreans’ enthusiasm about “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the movie about rock group Queen’s leader Freddie Mercury. — ED.
By all indications, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un will likely visit Seoul before the end of this year. He promised this during President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Pyongyang in September.
The media has been speculating on the dates but they have so far been denied.
Moon, on his way to New Zealand aboard Air Force One during his recent overseas tour, revealed U.S. President Donald Trump had cleared Kim’s visit before the second Kim-Trump summit.
There is no reason to block Kim’s visit to the South. It is better to welcome him, because there is a chance the trip will help ease inter-Korean tensions, push the two countries further along a reconciliation path and disarm Kim of his nuclear weapons and missiles.
But the visit should be made within the framework of our democratic system.
For example, anti-Kim Jong-un demonstrations should be allowed, as long as they do not violate the law related to assembly and expression. That means protesters should not resort to violence or break away from designated areas.
The same non-violence rules should apply to those who support Kim’s visit. For violators on both sides, penalties should be fairly and strongly imposed.
So if Kim’s motorcade goes through Gwanghawmun boulevard, protesters and supporters should equally be allocated areas to express their feelings to the visitor.
If Kim wants to make an impact like Moon did when he mingled with North Korean residents during his Pyongyang visit, it should be left to his discretion.
However, the legal status of those who support the visit requires keen attention. Although it has not been actively enforced, the anti-North Korean National Security Law that bans support for the North has not been abolished. This exposes the supporters to the risk of legal trouble if the conservatives take over government.
That is why the Moon government should bring the opposition on board for Kim’s visit.
Meanwhile, the opposition is demanding that Kim visit the National Cemetery to pay respects to the soldiers who died in the 1950-53 Korean War and offer apologies for the North triggering the conflict that killed or maimed millions.
The opposition finds itself in a position to make a reasonable demand because the people yearn for peace on the Korean Peninsula as much as for justice for the North’s past aggression.
Some argue that Kim should be given a chance to address hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, after Moon took the opportunity to speak to thousands of North Koreans during his Pyongyang visit.
In the South, where Moon was elected by the people and uses powers mandated by rules governing his office, a North Korean-style Potemkin show would not be possible.
So now a speech at the National Assembly is being pondered as a compromise because the lawmakers are also elected representatives of the people.
Given the chance, Kim would be advised to include a firm reference to the end of the Korean War that has been put on hold by a truce, whether it is an apology or an expression of regret. After all, he and Moon want to bring an official end to the conflict. But it would be a great waste of a chance if Kim’s southern trip whittles down to hiking on Mt. Halla.
About Koreans’ love of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Koreans have saved Queen. They love him. Even more of them will likely, if they have not already, watch the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” — about its late lead singer Freddie Mercury — than people of any other country, including Mercury’s adopted home, Britain.
It is an open question why Koreans have fallen for the singer whose super talent was only surpassed by the tragedy of his life. I asked some of those who have seen the movie why and found that it was more than nostalgia, because a significant portion were born well after the band’s heyday.
Two women colleagues in their 20s said they wanted to check out the songs and the singer, to whom they listened. They said they liked the singalong events, at which moviegoers were encouraged to sing Queen songs while watching the movie.
A fleeting thought: By watching the movie, I thought Koreans showed their compassion for Britons who are about to be thrown into the wild and could be left as pariahs through the implementation of Brexit. Or for the singer whose songs somehow boiled down to the pursuit of love to be unfulfilled as if he as an immigrant had sought acceptance without success.
Originally, I felt tempted to class the moviegoers with one big stroke, to conclude that a cultural inferiority complex, 20th Century Fox’s marketing gimmicks and word of mouth, nostalgia and a collective case of depression in the country were all part of the movie’s success.
When I was about to write, I realized that I had not seen the movie so I was unqualified to judge it and those who watched it. (More frankly, I decided not to watch it out of a petty mind, because so many people were watching it and I did not want to jump on the bandwagon.)
As part of self-reflection, I took some of the lyrics from 10 Queen songs. All you have to do is to come up with the titles. For those who are frustrated not knowing any of the correct answers, let it be known that the 10th answer is “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Check the quiz at http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/ar t/2018/12/689_259998.html.