The Words of the Ladouce Family
Reflection On The Relation Between Korea And Israel
January 19, 2004
For those interested, this is a long posting about my reflections on Korea and Israel. Hoping that some of you will have the courage to read it completely or partly and bring some feedback. Thank you! (Laurent Ladouce)
An axis of the good in the Middle-East and in Korea? A global perspective on the crisis in the year 2003 and a global proposal of hope for the year 2004
During the year 2003, two major crises which so far were not connected to each other, came to be increasingly related: one is the crisis in the Middle-East, the other is the crisis in North-East Asia. Both crises are a legacy of World War II and have remained unsolved for six decades.
What is the core of the crisis in the Middle-East? It is the Palestine partition, the impossible coexistence of the State of Israel and a Palestinian State. And what is the core of the crisis in North-East Asia? It is the Korean partition, the existence of a divided Korean peninsula. In the Middle-East, the Road Map involves 6 actors: Israel, the PLO, the UN, the USA, the UE and Russia. In North-East Asia, the sixth-party talk involves the two Koreas, China, Russia, the USA and Japan.
WHY AND HOW THE MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND KOREAN CRISIS BECAME CONNECTED
Each crisis has its own logic. Then, why are they now related? The answer is simple. The Bush doctrine of international relations gives the United States a mission to eradicate terrorism and to facilitate the emergence of a more democratic world. This will entail a confrontation with the Axis of Evil, a loose coalition of rogue States, which are suspected to back terrorism and to possess weapons of mass destruction. The list of rogue States consists of four Middle-East States (Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria), plus Cuba and North Korea.
The Bush doctrine was applied in 2003. While the USA were preparing to attack Iraq in February-march, Kim Jong Il opened a new front in the crisis of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Unlike Saddam Hussein, he would refuse the UN inspectors. Ever since then, the two situations were increasingly tied. When the Bush administration met difficulties in the post-Saddam Iraq, they sought new partners to share the burden of occupation. And they asked Japan and Korea to make an important commitment by sending troops in Iraq. This is a major challenge for both nations. Many circles in the Korean civil society strongly rejected the idea that Korea should help America in the Middle-East quagmire, with the consequence of attracting terrorism in Korea. The Koreans were all the more irritated that notions such as the axis of evil and rogue States negate their recent policy of détente with Pyongyang.
Koreans have not forgotten the Korean War and the sacrifice of 30,000 American soldiers who died on their soil to repel Communism. However, in the recent years, South Korea has tried a sunshine policy towards its Northern neighbour. Its promoter, Kim Dae Jung, aimed at a normalization of the relations with Pyong Yang. This sunshine policy requires that you abstain from seeing absolute evil in your partner Furthermore, many Korean experts doubt that Kim Jong Il really possesses nuclear capacities, or that he would use them.
In any case, the Bush doctrine prevailed, with the result that, at the end of the year 2003, the fate of the Middle-East and the fate of Korean became tied: South Korea will become a direct partner of the USA to fight the axis of evil in the Middle-east, and it is understood that by toppling leaders such as Saddam, the USA wants to bring an end to the regime of North Korea.
For a while, the Korean society was very nervous, but the recent capture of Saddam Hussein followed by the declaration of Libyan leader Muamar Gadhafi have accelerated things: suddenly, all the eyes went back and forth between the Middle-East and the Far-east as when one looks a tennis match. Even if the crisis in the Middle-East and the crisis in the Korean peninsula are different in nature, it was a major feature of the year 2003 that the two issues became connected. No doubt this will persist in 2004.
Seen from this viewpoint, the relation between Middle-east Affairs and North-East Asian affairs seems to be fortuitous. But is it the case? If we look at international relations for the past decades, the fate of Israel and the fate of Korea have been tied for quite a time already. The special relation that may exist between Israel in the Middle-East and Korea in the Far-east desrves reflection.
THE YEAR OF PARTITIONS
The destinies of Israel and of Korea were sealed after the victory of the Allied Nations in World War II. The Jews, who had endured the Shoah in the hands of Nazi Germany, were solemnly entitled by the United Nations to create their national homeland in Palestine. In the far-east, the Koreans who had just endured 35 years of colonization in the hands of Japan were offered independence.
Amazingly, the flag of Israel and the flag of Korea started to float exactly in the same time, the month of May 1948. A resolution on the creation of a Jewish State had been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947, and on may 14th, the British mandate over Palestine expired. The new State of Israel was recognized by the USA and the USSR. Yet, tragedies followed the newly gained independence. The resolution 181 of November 1947 called for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. This was refused by the Arab nations and the war started right after may 15th. It was followed by 5 other wars and the Jewish question quickly became an international issue.
The Korean independence was also gained with the demon of partition. On November 1945, a divided Korea was placed under the tutelage of the USA, the UK and USSR. Kim Il Sung dominated the North with the support of the Soviet Union, while the South was under American influence. During the following three years, the partition of the Korean peninsula into two ideologically antagonistic States became inevitable. On may 10th 1948, unilateral elections were conducted in the South, and in the following months, two States came to exist. The Korean war started 2 years later which resulted in the death of 3 million people.
1948 was a fateful year for international relations. During this year, all Eastern Europe was absorbed in the Soviet sphere of influence, and Marxist-Leninist regimes regrouped in the Warsaw pact. While a North-South division prevailed in Korea, Germany experienced a partition between East and west. The sinister "Iron Curtain" evoked by Winston Churchill in his Fulton speech became a reality.
Meanwhile, other serious partitions appeared in critical areas of the planet. In South Africa an Afrikaner government implemented the rule of Apartheid, with its strict separation between Whites and non-Whites. Last but not least, India had split into two nations in 1947, the Indian Union and Pakistan, and in 1948, the two States had a war over Kashmir.
The partition starts in the hearts and spirits of men It can be ideological, territorial, racial or religious, or a combination of these. Absolute manicheism quickly erects walls of hatred and of curse; the enemy is declared radically evil, or alien so that war and violence are preferred to a shameful co-existence. In each case, the motto is the same: "You will hate your neighbour." In this context of pure hatred, and whereas UN resolutions appear powerless, the temptation of solving the problem by force is quickly embraced. Therefore, the map of non-conventional weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, coincides with the map of partition.
1989: THE YEAR OF REUNIFICATION
40 years later, winds of change swept across the planet. 1989 will be remembered as the year of all reunifications, latent or actualized. In Europe, a series of quiet revolutions starting in Poland and Hungary resulted in the epoch-making fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9. Fifteen years after these "miraculous" events, the European Union is about to absorb several nations of the former Warsaw pact in 2004. The end of the partition also means the end nuclear tesnion in Europe.
1989 was also a landmark in the history of South Africa. De Klerk took the decision to liberate Nelson Mandela and to dismantle apartheid, opening the way for a total democratization of South Africa after 40 years of apartheid rule. Throughout the 90's, South Africa managed to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction
Finally, the years 1987-1990 can be seen as a major turning point in the history of the Middle-east, 40 years after the partition of Palestine. The first intifada had a major impact and forced both Israel and PLO to review their strategies. During the first Gulf war, the sanctuary of Israel had been symbolically hit by some scud missiles but Israel wisely abstained from striking back. A significant move was attained with the international conference of Madrid. The unofficial talks of Oslo resulted in the historical summit between Yaser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Both men were rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize in 1994, one year after the same distinction had been attributed to De Klerk and Mandela. Quite significantly, Time Magazine of January 3, 1994 called De Klerk, Mandela, Rabin and Arafat collectively the Man of the Year. The four men came to symbolize the victory over partition.
But the assassination of Rabin in November 1995 brought a serious halt to the process of peace-building in the Middle-east.
What about North Korea? The regime was able to survive the Soviet perestroika, just like three other Asian States: China, Vietnam and Laos. Indeed, signs of thaw have surfaced in Korea, with the spectacular Sunshine Policy of president Kim Dae jong. During the year 2000, the two Kim could hold a summit in Pyongyang, and both nations had a joint parade at the Sidney Olympics in September. Last but not least, President Kim Dae Jong was distinguished by the Peace Nobel Prize in the year 2000.
However, the sunshine policy quickly reached serious limitations. Today, the nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang is considered serious by some experts. In the best case, we are very far from reunification.
Sadly and significantly then, two situations seem to remain seriously blocked 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet bloc: the situation in the Middle-east and the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
GEORGE BUSH MESSIAH'S COMPLEX
Worse, optimism received a fatal blow on September 11, when an unprecedented act of terror hit New York and Washington. Instead of Messianic hopes for universal reconciliation, mankind was offered sinister scenes of Armageddon and Apocalypse over Manhattan. The prophecies of Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations seem to be fulfilled.
This religious imagery may seem inappropriate as we reflect about international relations, but religion has precisely made a spectacular come back in world politics in the past years, and geospirituality will certainly play a decisive role in the next years, along with classical geopolitics and geoeconomics.
On the one hand, fundamentalism is at work in the Muslim world. On the other hand, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration are often motivated by a strong spirit of Christian Crusade.
Shortly before his election, George Bush attended church with his mother. The sermon of the pastor talked about Moses, who was initially reluctant to become God's prophet. Barbara Bush would have told her son that he was the new Moses for America. Indeed, the President makes no mystery of his faith in a divine mission. In an article published the Progressive in February 2003 Matthew Rotschild evoked "Bush's Messiah Complex".
The good side of this Messianism is undeniable. The American President, a born again Christian, believes that the United States have a moral mission, and that it should use its powers to spread democracy and peace worldwide. "There is nothing bigger than to achieve world peace'' the President said to journalist Bob Woodward.
But there could be a dark side in the crusading spirit of the President. According to Laurie Gaylor, editor of Freethought Today, ''He's the most recklessly religious President we've seen. He's on a religious mission, and you can't divorce religion from his militarism.'' Bob Woodward also heard the President saying: "I loathe Kim Jong Il! I've got a visceral reaction to this guy.''
''What I hear is a holy trinity of militarism, masculinism, and messianic zeal," says Lee Quinby, professor of American Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. ''It does follow the logic of apocalyptic thought, which has a religious base but is now secularized in the militaristic mode.''
It is certainly this mixture of visceral reactions and of military Messianism which explains the crusade of the Bush administration against Iraq and North-Korea throughout the year 2003. Both countries figured as Rogue States belonging to a so-called "Axis of Evil". The term "axis of hatred" had first been suggested to the chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. But apparently Gerson wanted to use the theological language that Bush had made his own since September 11. This is how the axis of hatred became the axis of evil.
Undeniably, the Bush doctrine has a certain grandeur: it is based on the assumption that establishing democracy in Iraq will have a contagious effect in the Arab World, and will help finally solve the Palestine question. In the wake of the quick victory in Baghdad, President Bush supported the newly assigned Prime Minister of Palestine and announced that his country would offer a free trade partnership to the Arab World. Likewise, it is assumed that solving the Korean question will open avenues for peace in North-east Asia.
THE NEED OF A PAX-UN
However, the policy of the Bush administration is facing serious obstacles and is not without risks. A major risk is to arrive at the very clash of civilization that should be avoided at all cost. Moreover, it seems unrealistic to arrive at a lasting peace through the mere questions of Weapons of Mass destruction and establishing democracy. The world of lasting peace is probably not a world where one nation can unilaterally provide military security and political stability. Many feel that we need to arrive at a multipolar world where the dialogue among civilizations and cultural heritages with all their diversity becomes possible. For this reason, the mission of the United Nations to bring world peace needs to be absolutely respected.
Ambassador Woon Sang Choi of Korea, a close adviser of former President Kim Dae Jong exposed the problem simply in his brilliant article on the need of a PAX-UN.
"If we are to fulfill the historic mission of human society, we must strive not to achieve peace under the rule of one Nation as in Pax Romana but to attain a UN-centered world peace (Pax UN), which is a Peace for all nations based on genuine democratic principles.
To do that we ought to reform our cosmological view,national concept and life concept into a renewed macro-vision of a true human and look to the desirable goal: a realizable, deontological, and aspired society that I have called "Oughtopia" (i.e., spiritually beautiful, materially affluent and humanly rewarding society). When our posterity passes judgement on what we are about to do, I hope to God they would hail and extol us in deep gratitude saying that when humanity was helplessly facing aeschatological crises, none other than people like us, nations like the major powers took to the vanguard, saved the world and created the new civilization that they came to aspire for."
Ambassador Choi works with a Korean think tank which advocates the emergence of a Global Common Society starting with the creation of regional unions as partners of a PAX-UN. From this viewpoint, the major powers of the planet should not try to dictate a general policy, but should rather join these unions and show a good example of peace-building on a regional level.
THE AXIS OF THE GOOD AND THE RELEASE OF POSITIVE ENERGY
Let us now reflect on the deeper reasons which explain why, at the turn of the third millenium, the two crises of the Middle-East and in the Korean peninsula may require a global approach. It is not a simple coincidence, and it is not only the fruit of the American foreign policy. Profound civilizational factors are at work.
If we want to solve the two problems at the root, and in a global undertaking, we need to adopt the viewpoint of an "axis of the good". The axis of the good was to prevail right after the end of World War II. In 1945, the allied nations created the United Nations and could solve two painful problems. One was the German question in Europe, the other was the Japanese question in Asia. Today, the former foes of democracy are model countries and are respected in the concert of democratic nations. Their negative and destructive energy has been transformed into something positive and immensely creative. A reunified Germany and a prosperous Japan are expected to assume a major role in world politics, provided Russia and China give their greenlight.
It is a terrible paradox that the Jewish people and the Korean people, the unfortunate victims of Germany and Japan have not yet been able to find their place in this axis of the good that was established after World War II. Indeed, Israel and South Korea have been under a constant threat ever since 1948. How scandalous this is! How can we explain that these two nations continue to be catalysts of the worst possible form of threat for the world security? Why do these two nations, which endured the worst crimes under totalitarian empires, still live as nations over which the sunshine of peace refuses to shine?
A simple answer maybe that peace in Israel and peace in Korea would have tremendously positive effects on the planet. The metanoia or catharsis ending the tragedy would be almost too good and dreamlike. It is really the opposite of terror and crusading against terror. The positive energy released by the end of these two crises would be much more powerful than that which was released by the end of communism in Europe and the end of apartheid in South Africa. As small as they are on the map, Korea and Israel have always been among the most coveted nations of all human history. They were always the victims of rivalries among powerful empires, owing their survival to a deep and resilent culture. It is precisely this culture that could bring a lot of Blessing and light to the rest of the world, and one may wonder if there is not some obscure conspiracy of the forces of evil and darkness to prevent such a trend.
The genius of the Jews need not be presented here. This small people carries a universal spiritual message that has profoundly transformed the world. Even under the persecution of Europe, Jewish creators and thinkers have played a central role in our intellectual and cultural progress.
The creative capacities of Korea have also astonished the world, even if the emphasis has been excessively put on economic performances. Koreans themselves know that their country has more to offer, as was mysteriously prophesied in 1929 by Rabindranath Tagore:
In the Golden days of the East
Korea was one of its lamp-bearers
And that lamp is waiting to be lighted once again
For the illumination of the East.
THE MEDITERRANEANS IN WORLD AFFAIRS
Let us first reflect on the concept of Mediterranean. Strictly speaking, the Mediterranean sea is the Mare Nostrum bordering North Africa, Southern Europe and Asia minor. Israel is located there. Yet, as Yves Lacoste has pointed out, several similar seas have likewise played the role of Mare Nostrum in other areas of the planet.
A Mediterranean is a maritime unit around which we find a certain number of States having numerous and complex relationships, since each of them is potentially in contact with all others through the sea.
One may add that all Meditarreaneans have been meeting points and crossraods of major civilizations. Often located in regions of sismic activities, they have also been places of major tensions throughout history. Geospiritual, geopolitical and geoeconomic tensions are often stronger there than in other areas.
The Mediterranean sea, serving as a bridge between three continents, was the cradle of brilliant civilizations which flourished before and after Christ. The three Monotheisms were born there, and are connected to Jerusalem. The Romans unified the Mediterranean world, and the synthesis between the Greco-Roman humanism and the Judeo-Christian faith gave birth to the Western civilization.
The Baltic Sea can be considered the second Mediterranean sea of Europe. It serves as a bridge between the Scandinavian, German and Slav Cultures. Moreover, the three branches of Christianity are facing each other around this sea, in a very unique configuration. Samuel Huntington has rightly called Russia the core State of the Orthodox world, and Poland is surely one of the key nations of Catholicism. Scandinavia as a whole is a stronghold of the Lutheran culture.
The Caribbeans are definitely the third Mediterranean. They are a melting pot of the American, European and Indian cultures, and serve as a bridge between North America, predominantly Anglo-saxon and Protestant, and South-America which is prdeminantly Latin and Catholic.
The South China Sea is the 4th Mediterranean sea. Often portrayed as a fabulous sea because of the trade of gold, spices and silk, it has received the influence of Hinduism, followed by Buddhism (Continental South-East Asia), Islam (Indonesia is today the most populated Muslim nation of the world) and Christianity (Philippines are the main Christian nation in Asia). This region has received the colonial heritage of France, Great-Britain, Netherlands, Spain Portugal, Japan and United States. Despite its cultural diversity, the region is quickly seeking regional integration through the ASEAN.
The Sea of Japan can be considered the 5th Mediterranean of the planet. This sea connects China, Korea, Russia, and Japan, and has facilitated numerous cultural exchanges for thousands of years. Buddhism, Confucianism, shintoism and Christianity face each other there. The importance of the sea is enhanced by the fact that the United States have invited themselves as a new and major actor of this Mare Nostrum. Today, 30, 000 American soldiers are stationed in South-Korea and the the USA and Japan have tied the most powerful bilateral relation of the entire world, in terms of economic power. And what do we find at the place where China, Russia, Japan, the USA and the two Koreas meet each other? We find none other than the region which many experts see as the new center of gravity of World Affairs.
DANGEROUS MEDITERRANEAN SEAS
According to Yves Lacoste, the Mediteranean sea represents the most insecure region of the entire globe. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is the core conflict, but the Arab world is torn with explosive tensions involving religious, political, social and economic factor. This region has the power to seriously destabilize North Africa, Asia Minor and Southern Europe. Four of the rogue States are located in the vicinity of this area.
Cuba is the rogue State of the Caribbeans, a region where the risks of explosion mainly come from ethnic tensions and chaotic socio-economic situations.
The Baltic Sea was a major area of tension during the Cold War, and the region is still affected by the heavy concentration of nuclear arsenals which are difficult to remove entirely. But the region is experiencing a very powerful renewal.
South-East Asia was the second theater of military operations during World War II (After Europe) and remained a front line between Democracy and Communism during the Cold War. India and Pakistan are not directly involved in the South China Sea, but the tension between China and India adds insecurity to a region torn by a multitude of intrastate conficts: the separatism in Aceh (Sumatra), and Mindanao (Philippines), the ethnic tensions in Burma (Karen) and Laos (Hmongs). The region is trying to achieve regional integration through ASEAN, but would "best friends" such as Australia, China, the USA and Japan necessarily accept a unified and powerful South-East Asia of 500 million people?
By all criteria, North-East Asia with the Sea of Japan is today the most insecure place after the Mediterranean, and North Korea is probably the most dangerous rogue State of the Planet.
MEDITERRANEAN SEAS IN THE MOVEMENT OF CIVILIZATION
The Mediterranean sea was always a dangerous place, but it is also the cradle of the most brilliant civilizations. Sumer, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Greece, and Rome established world empires with cosmopolitan cultures throughout antiquity. The fact that the belief in one God developed in this region has given Jews, Christians and Muslims a linear view of human history and the strong belief that they should play a central role in world history, interpreted as holy history or mainstream history. Mediterraneans have for long believed that their history was central whereas other people just had folklore and a primitive wordview.
After the separation between Judaism and Christianity, and later between Christianity and Islam, Christians have been able to build a domination over the entire world and the center of gravity for world affairs shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, with nations such as Spain, France, United Kingdom and United States becoming predominant in World Affairs.
Ever since its inception in 1776, the young American democracy has believed in its God-given Manifest Destiny. Part of the divine mandate meant for the pioneer Americans to Go West till California and the Pacific Ocean. Beyonf the Pacific, and going still more Westwards, the American imperium has extended its sphere of influence in North-East Asia. The USA forced Japan to open to trade and played a major role in the downfall of the shogunate. Meanwhile, they found the Philippines sufficiently attractive to become a colony.
While the Americans were engaged in the Conquest of the West, another huge pioneer nation started to gradually conquer its east: this was Russia in the 19th century. The 20th century saw major concentrations of political, economic military and cultural power in North east Asia as powerful nations were seeking hegemony over the Mare Nostrum of the Sea of Japan. By all standards, this region is preparing itself to replace the Atlantic as the center of gravity of World Affairs.
If we want to ease the existing tensions in the Middle-East and the Far-East, we need to understand the geospirituality of these two regions, and not only the geopolitics and geoeconomics. It is important that the United States can see beyond its own security. Washington should seek to establish lasting cultural partnerships with these two regions and try to embrace the complexity of the Middle-East and North-East Worldviews. The Arabo Muslim World and the Asian world will not easily accept the cultural hegemony of the West. The dialogue of civilizations is as important for our future as the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
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