[FOUNTAIN]Monkey See, Monkey Do"There is nothing new under the sun," the saying goes. The phrase reflects our society, where imitating others is common. But the words also mean that creating something new is difficult. Nobody is better than the Japanese at imitating. The Japanese people's ability to churn out something better than an original through re-creation, not simple imitation, is outstanding. A Japanese word, eidocotori, means "to acquire something good and make it one of your own." Manabu, which means "to learn" in Japanese, originated from maneru, which means "to imitate." Manebu, an ancient Japanese word, means to both imitate and to learn. Such mimicking lies behind the Japanese people's talent to learn technologies from the Western world and to eventually produce better products.
There are three English words for "imitation." The most common is "imitate," which also means "counterfeit." The word "mimic" is to follow someone's action or gesture. The word "copy" means "to xerox." Though the usage of these three words is a little different, they all sound negative.
However, strictly speaking, mimicking is an instinct of humans. Every human being acquires knowledge through imitation. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said in his book "Poetica" that humans are born with an instinct to imitate and to learn and feel joy through imitation. This says the driving force of artistic creation is imitation. The imitation theory of reality was the foundation of the study of poetry in the Western world until the creation theory of reality, part of 18th century romanticism, appeared.
One shouldn't blame constructive imitation wherever or whenever it shows up. The problem with doing so is that even crime is often imitated. The most common copycat crime is serial arson, which frequently occurs in Korea. A few days ago, a high school student killed his classmate after he had repeatedly watched the movie "Friends." This is also a mimic crime. In criminal psychology, such a psychological state is called "identification." In the case of the high school student, identifying with another source can bring admiration and courage.
The series of anthrax cases in the United States has led to fake anthrax scares around the world. In such turbulent times, this malignant mischief has thrown the world into a great panic. There have been several false reports of anthrax in Korea.
Exemplary punishment can be a solution for a mimic crime. The United States plans to impose five years of imprisonment and a 3.9 billion won ($3 million) fine for falsely reporting the anthrax disease. This may be good advice for future reference.
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik