9/19/14

Korea is a "hero-less" society


Why doesn't Korea have landmarks named after its great leaders and heroes/heroines? That's what Lee Chang-sup asks rhetorically before answering...

1) Individualism of Americans and that Koreans see things in terms of nations, dynasties, epochs. (Parenthetically, I think this explains things such as why Koreans are fine with a 513% tariff on imported rice.) 

2) Korean's turbulent modern history. Hallelujah! This is one of the most fightingest civilized countries I am familiar with. It isn't enough for Koreans to win, the other side must lose. And opponents are never to be honored. It doesn't matter about the good things a leader may have done, the downside is to be focused on. Yes, it is the same in other countries, in the same way that terrorists chopping off heads and children stealing candy are both criminals...

3) North Korea's deification of leaders. This one is less persuasive to me. A street named after one of South Korea's dictators will conjure up memories of the Kim dictators in North Korea? Okay, not persuasive to me, but apparently so in Korea, so that Koreans will refuse to want to drive down Dictator Street. 

4) Not enough history--this makes some sense. Leaders from 500 years ago are safely praised--King Sejong the Great was king, which should make him even worse than a dictator. Historical perspective may be needed before Koreans can objectively (or at least, somewhat reasonably) assess their leaders. But I wonder if there will enough time, I recently read that Koreans will become extinct by the year 2750.

5) Bias of historians... Yes, I'm always willing to believe that one...

6) Strict criteria...yes, good point... I have noted this one before, that even one flaw in a political leader (especially when it is an opponent) means the person is flawed and illegitimate, resulting in all Korean leaders as being regarded as criminals.

As another aside: 730 streets named after MLK. As Chris Rock, if you know someone on MLK, just say one word: "Run!" That's because many of those MLK street are in dangerous neighborhoods. Proving that Shakespeare (or whoever wrote it) had it right: "What's in a name?"