[FOUNTAIN]Presidential Memorials

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[FOUNTAIN]Presidential Memorials

If the traditional soft medium for reviewing the old and learning the new is books, the most common hard media are museums.

The word museum originated from a Greek word meaning a temple of the Muses. There were in all nine goddesses among the Muses, in charge of various fields of knowledge including literature, arts and science. Perhaps because of this, in the Western world, the museum is a combination of what in Korea are separately museums of historical artifacts and art galleries exhibiting paintings and sculptures.

Memorials are a type of museum In the broad sense. A memorial is a place to pay tribute to a great person or a meaningful event. In Europe, there are a number of memorials in remembrance of great men in the houses where they were born or lived, just like in our country.

However, when talking about memorials, those in the United States come to first to mind rather than those in Europe. This might be because there are famous presidential memorials in Washington D.C., like the Lincoln Memorial. But only a handful of memorials were dedicated to former presidents: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Memorials to George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy, the recent presidents, are actually libraries.

Since the history of constitutional government after Korean independence from Japan is rather checkered, we do not have even one imposing memorial to a former president. Though the controversy over building a memorial to former president Park Chung Hee is not yet resolved, now another controversy is stirring over building a memorial to the current president, Kim Dae-jung. The government is constructing a building called "House of Summit: North and South Exchange Center" in Cheju, financed with a budget of 30 billion won ($23 million), but after carefully examining the project, people are suspicious that the building might become a "DJ memorial." Of course, the government insists that the building is not a memorial for the president but purely a tourist attraction. It is still unclear whether the construction could be a profitable tourism investment and whether the suspicions can be swept away completely. If anybody were to build a memorial to the president, it would be desirable in many ways to build a meaningful one after Mr. Kim finishes his term, as other countries do. It would be better to build one on Haui Island in South Cholla province, where Mr. Kim was born, or in Donggyo-dong in Seoul, where Mr. Kim used to live before he became president.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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