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The Two Koreas Are Still at War

New America Media, News Analysis, Peter Schurmann and Aruna Lee Posted: Jul 14, 2008

Editor's Note: The shooting of a South Korean tourist at Mt. Geumgang in North Korea reveals a picture of a country divided by forces vying for control over popular sentiment -- a war being waged over the internet. Peter Schurmann and Aruna Lee are Seoul based writers for New America Media. Their blog is Korea Dispatch.

SEOUL, South Korea -- The Korea Times reported that the shooting death of a South Korean tourist in NK on July 12th has revealed a breakdown in communications between the leaders of the two Koreas. The report noted a direct line between the two leaders set up during the Kim Dae Jung administration in 2000 as part of its Sunshine Policy is no longer in use.

This explains, in part, why there was such a delayed response by South Korean authorities to the killing. It also reflects the widening gulf between the two sides, a consequence of President Lee Myung Baks tougher stance. Reportedly the North is now demanding an apology from the South for the killing.

A quick look at English and Korean blog sites reveals a split between those who favor a tougher stance by the South, and those who lean towards a more conciliatory approach.

One comment on the popular English language blog The Marmots Hole questions whether the North would have been more forthcoming with an apology during the liberal Roh administration. North Korea demands an apology from South, and refuses to cooperate with an investigation. Somehow, I doubt they would have done the same last year when Roh Moo Hyun was in power,adding in parting a colorful description of Rohs weak position vis-a-vis Kim Jung Il.

Another comment on the site ROK Drop puts it bluntly, theres a pretty good chance the North Korean bullet that killed the 53-yr old South Korean tourist was paid for by the Sunshine Policy.

Others point to the recent protests in South Korea over the importation of US beef, saying the North is exploiting President Lees weakened position here. The North Koreans probably feel South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is politically weak right now due to the Cows Gone Wild madness, and can get away with their demands with no repercussions.

Many are also wondering why the response from South Koreans themselves has been so muted, in stark contrast to the anti-US beef protests that nearly shut down the state.

Linking it to media coverage, some have criticized the press here for toning down the language in their reporting, referring to the case as an accidentrather than murder.

Korean netizens have been more sympathetic in their take on the shooting. One writes, Why was the woman walking around the beach at four oclock in the morning, when all the other tourists were sleeping. He adds, Ive been to the resort and there is clearly a fence marking the restricted zone. The woman was being careless.

The same blog notes that South Korean women lack any military knowledge because they do not serve in the military as South Korean men do. Many Korean netizens, it reads, are in fact calling on educating women here in basic military training.

Other posts on Korean sites have gone as far as to blame the US and President Lee for orchestrating the killing, perhaps as a means to divert attention away from the mad-cow scares. A Korea Times report noted a flood of postings from netizens immediately after the killing was announced highly critical of the woman and the South Korean government.

What comes of all this is a picture of a country divided by forces vying for control over popular sentiment, a battle being waged over the internet where fact and fiction are blended into a volatile mix aimed at influencing policy at all levels.

Clearly, reads one post, the shooting of the tourist at Mt. Geumgang shows we are still a country at war.

Related Articles:

Beef Crisis Plagues South Korean Politics

Koreans Have Beef With Korean Americans

A Torch for North Korean Refugees

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