The Sinking of the Cheonan Must Not Be Forgotten

      September 15, 2010 12:53

      Jeong Woo-sang

      "Is the sinking of the Cheonan a chapter in the country's history that needs to be wrapped up?" a high ranking South Korean government official asks. He said that is what he asks people who suggest that it may be time for South Korea to turn the page and prepare for the resumption of the stalled six-party nuclear talks. "The Cheonan incident is not over. It took the lives of 46 sailors," the official said. "We cannot just turn the page."

      Yet at the same time he was busy meeting officials in the U.S., China and other participating countries to discuss the resumption of the six-party talks. The governments of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan say North Korea must shift its stance about its sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette if it wants to resume six-party talks.

      North Korea has yet to utter a single word of regret about the sinking, even though it has asked for rice aid from South Korea and proposed holding another round of reunions of families separated by the Korean War. The Cheonan sinking is one of the things that stand in the way of the six-party talks. It could be extremely awkward for North and South Korean officials to sit face to face to discuss conditions for peace as if nothing had happened, even more uncomfortable than frankly discussing the attack in a multilateral setting.

      As U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth met Foreign Ministry officials on Monday, self-proclaimed "progressives" in the South surrounded the government building in downtown Seoul where the meeting was taking place and chanted slogans demanding the Lee Myung-bak administration remove "obstacles" to resuming the six-party talks. Before the sinking of the Cheonan, when North Korea was demanding a peace treaty and the lifting of sanctions, these very people used to gather at the same place chanting slogans calling on the U.S. to sign a peace treaty and lift sanctions. To them, the torpedo attack in South Korean territorial waters that resulted in the death of 46 South Korean sailors is merely an irritant.

      North Korea, the attacker, is keeping silent, and the people of the country that was attacked are demanding that the incident be forgotten. If the Cheonan incident is swept under the carpet, the souls of the sailors who perished that cold night in March will never be able to rest in peace.

      By Jeong Woo-sang from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

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