The Korea Times 칼럼

싸워야 할 시간: Time to Protest (2011년 6월 18일f)

divicom 2011. 6. 18. 08:46

Dear Aiko, how are you? I hope you weren’t hurt during your first-ever public expression of righteous anger because you will have to do what you did in the heart of Tokyo on Sunday again and again in the future. Yes, you have a busier life ahead like us here in Seoul, taking to the streets to lower the skyrocketing fee of higher education.

Each nation has its own enigmatic weaknesses which few outsiders can comprehend. Look at us. Ours is a country where more than 80 percent of high school graduates go to college or university only to end up as highly educated jobless after spending as much as 40 million won for four years on campus.

The government has kindly introduced a loan system under which collegians can borrow money for tuition and living expenses and repay them with interest after graduation. Acts of kindness, however, often result in damage to the would-be beneficiary unless thoroughly planned, and it is not uncommon for these graduates degrade to become credit defaulters the moment they leave the campus.

After the tragic earthquake and gigantic tsunami that jolted northeastern Japan on March 11 and subsequent disasters in and around the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, it was almost odd, if not weird, to observe your people remain so calm, at least on the surface. You have lost more than 23,000 people and the invisible Hades called radioactivity is haunting your country.

To be frank, we had a hard time figuring out how and why you were not crying out loud against your government’s incompetence and its suspicious claims, although we knew your time-honored tendency of quiet conformity. If we were in your shoes, our faces might be tanned and our voices husky as we had stayed on the street chanting anti-government slogans night and day.

Your people staged the first public protest after the Fukushima disaster on the streets of Tokyo on March 27, calling on the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. to close the atomic power plants in your country. The protesters were estimated to number around 1,200, way too small when the seriousness of the matter is taken into account.

In sharp contrast, however, on Sunday about 20,000 people took part in the street demonstrations for a ``No Nuke” campaign; the number is still small in light of the capital’s 13 million residents or 10 percent of the total Japanese population, yet it shows a tremendous increase from the previous figure. Participants included young mothers like you who wanted a safer Japan for their children and senior citizens who didn’t buy the government’s argument that nuclear energy couldn’t be scrapped for economic reasons despite the latest calamities.

In a separate yet relevant action, Italians rejected a referendum on Monday over the government’s move to restart nuclear plants shut down soon after the 1986 disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, and pundits say the rejection owed much to the Fukushima disaster. Voter turnout was as high as 57 percent and the embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it showed ``a will on the part of citizens to participate in decisions about our future that cannot be ignored.”

It is a lamentable shame that governments, elected to serve their people, not only falter but also become unreliable, but there always have been such failures and they, however grave, didn’t end the ill-fated nations as they had the electorates as backup. Discontented and frustrated as they may be, the citizens would come out to topple or reprimand the untrustworthy administrations and take remedial steps.

What you did on the street, I believe, is the beginning of a grand rectification process some may call ``revolutionary.” In another Tokyo-datelined dispatch, I have read that housewives were measuring radioactive contamination in their areas with leased Geiger counters as they couldn’t trust the government-provided statistics. I sincerely hope your government will do what your people dictate before they become more aggressive in expressing their indignation and just demands.

Dear Aiko, your people are sharing with us Koreans, the Italians and the entire world citizens what you have learned through your tragic experience and for that we are grateful. Please keep up the good work while we wrestle with our imminent problem of tuition and join you and others for more universal causes.


일본 동북부에 지진과 쓰나미가 몰아쳐 2만 3천여 명이 사망하거나 실종된 지 백 일이 되어갑니다. 지진과 쓰나미로 인해 후쿠시마 원전의 원자로들이 방사능을 유출시키고 있지만 일본 정부도 우리나라 정부도 원자력 발전을 아주 그만두려 하지 않습니다. 지난 일요일 우리나라에서 반값 등록금 요구 시위가 한창일 때 도쿄에선 2만여 명이 참가한 원자력 발전 반대 시위가 열렸습니다. 3월 27일에 천 2백여 명이 참여한 반정부 시위가 열린 적이 있지만 그 정도 큰 규모의 시위는 처음입니다.


그러나 이 시위가 중요한 것은 참가자의 수보다는 일본인의 변화 때문입니다. 일본인은 강진과 쓰나미, 후쿠시마 원전에서 일어난 사고 등에도 불구하고 적어도 겉으로는 크게 동요하지 않았습니다. 특유의 순응적 태도를 유감없이 발휘한 것이지요. 그러던 일본인들이 안전한 미래를 위해 분연히 일어선 것입니다. 제가 오늘 칼럼을 아이코라는 일본 여성, 어린 아이를 가진 젊은 엄마에게 쓰는 편지 형식으로 쓴 이유는 실제로 그런 참가자들이 많았기 때문입니다.


지난 월요일 이탈리아에서는 1986년 체르노빌 원전 사고 이후 중단되었던 원전 계획을 되살리자는 정부의 의도를 놓고 국민투표가 이루어졌습니다. 유례없이 높은 57퍼센트의 투표율을 기록한 유권자들은 베를루스코니 총리 정부의 계획을 무산시켰습니다. 후쿠시마 원전 사태가 이탈리아 국민들의 선택을 쉽게 했다고 합니다.


일본 국민은 자신들이 겪은 비극적 재난의 교훈을 우리와 이탈리아 국민, 나아가 세계 시민들 모두와 나누고 있습니다. 우리가 등록금 문제를 해결하고 더 보편적인 문제들과 싸우러 나설 때까지 그들이 더욱 열심히 더 큰 규모로 무능력하고 거짓말 잘하는 정부에 반대하는 시위를 벌여 나가기 바랍니다.