중앙데일리

[FOUNTAIN] Words Can Return to Haunt You

Mar 04,2001
As a Jewish proverb says, a word in your mouth is your slave, but after it comes out of your mouth it becomes your master. An old Korean saying also advises people that flour gets finer as you sift more, but words get rougher as you speak more. Although there are some people who favor loquacity, our ancestors used to say that a word, once spoken, spreads out faster than a wagon drawn by four horses and is impossible to stop.

One may choose from three main alternatives to counter the trouble brought on by a slip of the tongue. One way is adding more logic to explain one's belief even further. Another is avoiding trouble by denying the statement that started the trouble. The other way is by admitting your mistake and apologizing.

Dongguk University professor Hwang Tai-yon stepped down from his post of deputy director of a research institution affiliated with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party after commenting, "We can not question North Korean National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il for the legal responsibility of a war which happened when he was a child." He chose the first way, but his additional logic is nothing more than an evasive remark. A few years ago, Sanae Takaichi, a member of Japanese Diet born in 1961, told the Diet's foreign affairs committee, "I am not from the generation responsible for the war, so I will not reconsider, nor do I have a reason to be asked to reconsider." Some Japanese people severely criticized her comment as a deplorable historical view of a politician from the post-war generation. If Mr. Hwang is correct, then does it mean that the quibble of Ms. Takaichi is also correct?

A few days ago, Kim Jong-pil, honorary president of the United Liberal Democrats, triggered turmoil in political circles because he reportedly insulted Grand National Party President Lee Hoi-chang in a casual meeting with Japanese correspondents in Seoul. He reportedly used a Japanese word which roughly translates as "idiot." Mr. Kim denied using the word, employing the second defensive measure. In fact, some Japanese correspondents who were at the meeting said they did not hear such a word. Instead, they remembered that Mr. Kim used very abusive language to refer another politician in the ruling party.

There is a lesson here: Not only the speaker but those spreading his words must take pains to be accurate.

Before and after the return visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the sensitive topic of responsibility for past North-South grievances will produce an enormous number of words. There is a saying that 90 percent of politics is words. It behooves the leaders of our society to weigh their words carefully.


by Noh Jae-hyun




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