[FOUNTAIN] Lessons From Swedish Wisdom

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[FOUNTAIN] Lessons From Swedish Wisdom

A collection of stories by the novelist Cho Sei-hee has acquired the status of a classic since it was released in the late 1970s. It revolves around a dwarf, his wife and three children, who are about to be uprooted from a neighborhood planned for redevelopment. In the chapter entitled "The Small Ball Shot up by the Dwarf," the dwarf's oldest son writes in his journal: "Violence does not manifest itself only in guns or police batons. To leave a young child to starve in the middle of a city is just as violent. It is a country of calamity where there are no voices of opposition. Who dares to impose rule and order by means of violence? A 17th century Swedish Chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, said to his young son, 'Do you know how unwisely the world is governed?' Nothing much has changed since the days of Oxenstierna. . ."

The man quoted in the writing is the statesman considered to be the best government leader that Sweden has ever had. He led Sweden through the tumultuous 17th century of northern Europe, keeping the country in order at home while the king, Gustav II Adolf, fought for decades on the battlefield. Oxenstierna is thought to have laid the foundations of the modern nation. He was instrumental in establishing the administrative and parliamentary bodies of the country and introduced mercantilism and a new education system. After the death of King Gustav II in battle in 1632, Oxenstierna would be on the diplomatic frontline successfully putting an end to the Thirty Years' War to Sweden's benefit. It was such a wise leader who lamented over "unwise governance" to his son, and Mr. Cho had his character write about him to describe the dark political reality under then-President Park Chung Hee.

Sweden is a country that for the 180 years following the Napoleonic Wars, which waged from 1797 to 1815, was free from armed conflict. It managed to steer clear of the two world wars by maintaining strict neutrality. But Sweden's neutrality was peculiar, unlike Switzerland and Austria where it was written into the constitution or sealed in a treaty. The neutrality was one that was applied flexibly, as when it allowed the Nazis passage through its territory in World War II and turned around to supply the British with destroyers.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson is set to make back-to-back visits to North and South Korea early next month. The Bush administration is reportedly keeping a close eye on developments, with Mr. Persson expected to play an unspecified role in relations between the two Koreas, including the matter of a return visit to Seoul by Kim Jong-il. In many ways, the Korean Peninsula could be said to be an exemplary case of "unwise governance." Hopefully, Mr. Persson will shed some wisdom on a relationship that keeps drifting.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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