Government symbols in transition
As the Korean pop culture became internationally popular in the 2000s, Taiwanese government considered a plan to create “Taiwan boom” by benchmarking Korea’s success. But they soon concluded that it would not be easy. A Taiwanese source said, “It was a challenge to find Taiwan’s original tradition as Chinese culture from the mainland is mixed with the indigenous culture.” Without the traditions that differentiate from others, Korean Wave or Taiwan boom wouldn’t be possible.
In fact, the major part of the Korean wave is based on Korean tradition. Jewels in the Palace were a television series about Korean cooking and medicine, and latest K-food boom wouldn’t have been possible without the traditional Korean cuisine. Our ancient tradition is our competitive edge and future industry.
But instead of protecting and refining the traditions, the society seems to be eager to change them. The recently announced project to replace government symbols is such a case.
The government recently announced that the hibiscus-shaped government symbol that’s been used for 67 years will be replaced with a Taegeuk symbol. Also, inconsistent ministerial symbols and emblems will be changed accordingly.
However, this is problematic. First of all, the replacement is against the public opinion. Last year’s government survey showed that 26.3 percent chose to keep the current symbol, 39.6 percent suggested improving the current symbol. Only 34.1 percent of the respondents said that a new mark should be developed. Most number of respondents wanted to improve the current emblem.
Moreover, even when the emblem of the government is changed to Taegeuk symbol, the emblem of Korea still features the national flower. The emblems of the National Assembly and courts are also hibiscus. Changing the government symbol would actually ruin the consistency among the state and the three branches.
The United States, the United Kingdom and Germany use their government emblems effectively, and they all use their old, traditional symbols.
The UK has been using a quartered shield as the Royal coat of arms since the 17th century. Germany’s coat of arms features an eagle, the symbol of Holy Roman Empire. In the United States, departments and agencies have their own logos, but many of them use an American bold eagle. The symbols of the state and government could be modified, but the core ideas should not be touched. Only then, we can prevent confusion of identity.
Nevertheless, the government wants to replace the national flower with Taegeuk. This year, 7.6 billion won ($6.53 million) of budget has been allocated. Due to the short-sited policy decisions, 16 symbols of the government agencies were changed at the time of the organizational overhaul in 2008, and 13 were changed in 2013. Let’s stop changing the names of political parties or government symbol overnight. If we constantly change, how can we have valuable tradition?
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 21, Page 35
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.