[FOUNTAIN]Pledges and the law

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[FOUNTAIN]Pledges and the law

A controversy in the United States has roared ever since a federal appeals court in San Francisco decided Wednesday that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. The court said the phrase "one nation under God" violates the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

Koreans are accustomed to various pledges of "allegiance" that reek of nationalism. Under the Syngman Rhee administration, students had to learn Our Pledge by heart. The pledge reads, "We are sons and daughters of the Great Republic of Korea. Let's protect our nation at the risk of death. Let's unite into iron to defeat the communists. Let's fly the national flag at the summit of Mount Baekdu and achieve the unification of the two Koreas." All books published then had the pledge printed on their back covers.

In August 1972, under the Park Chung Hee administration, the Ministry of Education sent the Pledge to the National Flag to schools across the country and made students learn it by heart. It was the year that the administration revised the Constitution to extend its term of office. In October 1980, the Chun Doo-hwan administration made it a rule to recite the Pledge to the National Flag whenever people saluted the colors. It was the year that the Chun Doo-hwan Administration came into power through a coup d'etat. During those periods, every Korean stopped walking, fighting or shopping at 5 p.m., when the Korean national anthem began to come through loudspeakers. With the anthem, the Pledge to the National Flag was recited, which reads, "In front of the honorable national flag, I pledge I will dedicate my body and soul to loyally serve for the sake of the endless glory of the nation and the people." Even movie fans had to see the national flag on the screen and to hear the national anthem and the Pledge to the National Flag before a film started.

The Pledge to the National Flag accompanied every flag-lowering ceremony, until the law was changed in 1996. Now, Koreans have changed enough to make national flag skirts, trousers and hoods to wear, and they painted the national flag on their faces and arms while cheering in the streets during the World Cup.

The decision by the U.S. Appeals Court is more complicated because it includes a religious issue. U.S. President George Bush dismissed the decision as "ridiculous." I have a great interest in the progress of the issue, because the patriotism of the nation has been heightened since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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