How do youths in Korea feel about the world situation since the terrorist attacks on September 11? The Women's News met up with 18-year-old Kang Jinkyung (JK), Baek Sumin (SM), Lee Sukyung (SK) and Kang Jinyoung (JY) from Daeil Foreign Language High School to hear their thoughts on America's war of retribution.
JY: We talked a great deal while watching the news of the attacks. Many of us were saying that the US was getting what it deserved.
SK: Not everyone thought like that.
SM: There were even rumors that the US had staged the whole thing. People were talking about the prophecies of Nostradamus...
JK: I was relieved that North Korea was not on the list of suspected terrorist countries.
SK: Quite a few of us were unhappy about having to observe a moment of silence after the terror attacks.
JK: They didn't do that when the Sampoong Department store or Sungsu Bridge collapsed, so why should the entire nation bow our heads in silence because some buildings collapsed in the US?
SM: The US says it is striking back because of its citizens who were victimized by the attacks, but it's obvious that a war will victimize even more civilians. A war cannot be justified. This must be a calculated political move.
JK: Wouldn't a war make the sacrifice of the Americans meaningless?
SM: Americans seem to believe that their country is a superpower. Their patriotism is scary. CNN keeps showing scenes of the World Trade Center collapsing, heating up the people's emotions. They are manipulating global public consensus.
JY: Yeah. We can see only what they want to show us.
JK: We've seen wars only through movies and novels. We don't have first-hand experience, so a war seems like something far away. But reports of biochemical weapons and anthrax infections has brought the war much closer to reality. I heard that North Korea has a lot of biochemical weapons. It's scary...
SM: Here they are inciting terrorism while saying that they are going to eradicate it. It was the same in Kosovo. The US is acting like the world police and yet it gets into dirty fights.
JK: What'll happen to Korea? Supporting the US would be an economic burden.
JY: We have no choice. We don't know what losses we'll face if we fall out of the US's favor. Because of our relationship with North Korea and Japan, Korea could very well come under fire.
SM: Japan does not have the right to dispatch military detachments because of its war crimes, and yet it is exploiting this chance to revise its laws so that it can send its self-defence forces overseas.
JK: The situation now may cement Korea's subordinate status as a vessel state of the US. The Japanese threat is quite a problem too.
SM: The government will have to think first of the people's safety, and then probably it will want to get into the US's good books since that is economically and politically advantageous.
JY: What if we came under terrorist attacks? Cooperating with the US may be dangerous.
JK: What's more, our relationship with North Korea is going down the drain again.
SM: Our generation is skeptical about the future of this country.
JK: Korean citizens have a problem. Why do we have to forsake our pride and do everything we're told?
SK: I want to work for the UN. It's an organization that regards the world as one community and searches for a common direction, right? Since Korea is not strong enough, I think working at the UN can contribute to world peace. I hope Korea breaks away from the US's influence.
SM: What about the Arabs? We see media reports of the religious disputes and the incidents in Palestine, but it is so far away. I don't think any of us show enough concern. It's only now that people are interested in who Bin Laden is. There's even a website for his fans. He's like a celebrity now.
JK: They're showing lots of TV programs on Arab countries these days. They're saying that it is a terrible place for women and children.
SM: I am a member of the Korean chapter of Amnesty International, and I read in the bulletin that in Arab countries, they stone women for committing adultery. It's just corporal punishment for the men. If women expose their faces in public, they get whipped. The Koran is kept to the letter in these days and times. Can you believe it?
JY: I heard of the honor killings. Even if a man kills his own female family member, he is sentenced to only about 6 months in jail.
JK: A brother killed his younger sister for getting raped.
SM: I get confused when it comes to oppression of women in Islam countries. One Arab lady said that the aba covering her entire body is not a form of oppression but just their way of life.
JK: Well, you've seen girls who say that all will be well if they meet and marry Mr. Right. Even our teachers say that. We are brought up to think that what we have to put up with is just the facts of life.
JY: There must be movements within Arab countries trying to free women from oppression. I heard a feminist say that it would be a long fight. But the US is saying that the war will benefit these women. That's ridiculous.
JK: Benefit the refugees and women? So they think they're heroes. War strengthens the strong and weakens the weak. It cannot be justified.
JY: Many anti-war demonstrations are taking place all over the world. I heard we had a street demonstration here in Korea.
SM: How much effect would that have? Amnesty International is collecting signatures through small groups, but people just put their signatures down and then forget about it. I wonder how much of our words get across.
SK: I think our generation is not concerned or interested enough. They just want to have fun and avoid thinking about serious issues. My younger brother lives in a world of his own. All he does is play computer games, read fantasy novels and talk about celebrities. He doesn't seem to have any real values.
SM: My brother said that the US aircraft carriers were cool and that he wants to get on one. There's a computer game called 'Delta Force' about the US commandos, and he's addicted to it.
JK: It's an important time right now. I think that 'interest' is important when it comes to war and human rights issues.
JY: War destroys everything we value. That is why war is scary. I think 'ignorance' contributes to crime. Prejudices and stereotyping all comes from accepting whatever you're told. I think proper knowledge is important.
SM: I know that the government's policies are wrong and that there is a problem with US foreign policies, but I'm not sure there is anything we can do to change society. But if the majority recognizes that there is something wrong and have the will to change things, I guess we could make a difference.