Regarding Tom Plate's Oct. 11 article, " 'Silly (Korean) summit' produced serious results": If one ignores Plate's reprehensible mockery and blatant abuse -- an apparently congenital and incurable feature of smug American punditry on global events -- of the two Korean leaders, his views on the recent inter-Korean summit make some sense.

What he and many other commentators cannot either see or care to validate, however, is that the 2000 summit and the recent one cumulatively represent a great psychological breakthrough for Koreans across their divided land. Koreans have long seen their country as a shrimp between whales -- perennially vulnerable to big, bullying powers in both their neighborhood and from beyond. It's only since the "end" of the Cold War in the rest of the world that the two halves of Korea have found some breathing room to take semi-independent steps to chart their own destiny together. While this has been a very difficult and delicate path for them to explore and they will probably encounter considerable thorns ahead, it is worth noting that in the introductory section of the Oct. 4 joint communique, the two sides speak of moving toward betterment of their ties by "their own initiatives" and "their own will and capabilities."

This is a clear warning to others that, six-party talks or not, Koreans will no longer be restricted by the moves of outsiders -- China, Japan, the United States and Russia -- that have controlled their fate too often in the past. However unpopular South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun may be at home and however repressive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may be in his own domain, they are not clowns or buffoons.

vipan chandra