[EDITORIALS]Bury Hatreds, Not Books

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[EDITORIALS]Bury Hatreds, Not Books

Everybody has freedom of expression, but that freedom should not be used to defame others. On Saturday a group of 50 people staged an event where they tried to return to the author books written by Mr. Yi Mun-yol, a novelist. We doubt if the event can be justified by freedom of expression. We saw a picture of a child too young to read Mr. Yi's works carrying a picture composed of covers of Mr. Yi's books as if it were a picture carried in a funeral procession, and his books were bundled by ropes tied to a funeral bier. We felt a chill run down our spines because the event looked like a funeral ceremony for a novel.

The event was the result of heated debates between the writer and those who were furious at his column. Mr. Yi criticized some civic groups rallying for press reform in his column, saying they were like the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in China. Amid the heated rhetoric, Mr. Yi said he would refund readers' money if his books were sent back to him. He soon retracted what he said, but we have ended up with an unprecedented event, a funeral for books written by an author.

Intellectuals, even more so if they are writers, have a social responsibility to choose appropriate words when they speak. However, even if a writer uses inappropriate words, we cannot pretend to kill his works collectively and hold a funeral for them. That is like literary terror.

Readers with a conscience should say in a public forum what they want to say. If they think that a writer's sense of values hurts his works' literary value, they can simply avoid buying his books. That is the right way to exercise their rights.

Our society does not like to tolerate persons with different opinions. There is a tendency toward collective harassment of those from different regions, different backgrounds and with different ideas. But a truly democratic society should be able to make people recognize those differences and find ways to narrow the differences among themselves through active discussion and compromise. If we sort people by friends and enemies, social ruptures and conflicts will be amplified. This cultural hysteria, a funeral for books, should not occur again.
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