[FOUNTAIN]Scapegoats and Korea

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[FOUNTAIN]Scapegoats and Korea

Cows were placed on the altar during religious rituals in ancient China honoring gods and ancestors. The word "sacrifice" in Chinese was associated with cows. It picked up its modern meaning when King Tang reigned in the country of Yin. He was one of the wisest rulers of his time; when a five-year drought hit, he offered himself as a sacrifice to pray for rain. He shaved his head and had himself tied up on the altar; this impressed the sky, it seemed, and it started raining. Since that time, the meaning of the word "sacrifice" became offering oneself for others.

The word "scapegoat" originated in an ancient Jewish custom. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews picked a goat by lottery, laid on it the blame for all their sins and set it free in the wilderness. The English word "scapegoat" was translated into a Korean word that meant a "goat of sacrifice" or "goat of atonement." In every ancient society, sacrificial rituals offered animals to the gods for prosperity and health and to prevent disasters. Korea is no exception. There is a trace of such sacrifices in traditional rituals using a pig's head.

In ancient Athens, humans were sacrificed. A man and a woman were selected and well fed for a year, and during the Targelia Festival, the couple was lashed with whips made of fig tree branches and burned to death. The Athenians believed that the ritual purified them. The witch hunts in medieval times and the Holocaust were also examples of religious and political scapegoats.

"When a society falls into great confusion, it looks for scapegoats and becomes united in the process," said Rene Girad, a French literary critic and the author of "Scapegoat." Jack Levy, an American professor of international politics, also developed a "scapegoat hypothesis," the diversion of people's attention from internal problems by provoking a war or touting an external threat.

Reports in the foreign press call former Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo, who was recently fired, a scapegoat for the faltering U.S.-Korea relationship. After President George W. Bush mentioned an "axis of evil," tension between the two countries was heightened, and President Kim Dae-jung is said to have made the minister a scapegoat by firing him. That sounds like a reasonable explanation.

But the entire Korean Peninsula should never be made a scapegoat for internal U.S. problems. As in the theory of Mr. Girad and Mr. Levy, the United States should not seize upon its animosity toward North Korea to involve the entire peninsula in a war.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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