[FOUNTAIN]Turning the Tide of the Time

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[FOUNTAIN]Turning the Tide of the Time

Seven scholars in the ancient Chinese Wei and Chin dynasties chose to ignore the polluted politics of the time, spending their time drinking and writing poetry. Lu Hsun, commonly considered the greatest Chinese writer of the 20th century, scorned their behavior as an irresponsible escape from reality. But before civil society was built - meaning before the modern era - scholars had limited social choices.

On the Korean peninsula there was a similar revolt in the case of Cheongdam-pa, a group of scholars who lived outside Dongdaemun (East Gate of Seoul) in the early Choson dynasty.

After liberation from Japanese colonization, a group of intellectuals experimented with movements to engage the people. They included Reverend Mun Dong-hwan, the social benefactor Jang Gi-ryeo, the philosopher Park Jong-hong, Reverend Kim Jin-hong, and the farmer and philosopher Yun Kyu-byeong. In their "academy movement," they tried to bring education and life together. Through their community movements, they aimed to establish common property system and resolve environmental issues. Such movements were a comfort amid the chaos and meaninglessness of the time.

And the world is changing again. The code name for the change this time is "Heiri." Recently, construction began on the Heiri Art Valley, in Paju, Kyonggi province. The word "heiri" comes from a farmer's song in the Paju area. Heiri will make a communal attempt to challenge the apathy and dominant values of our era.

What will Heiri be? Some 300 people have started building a cultural space, on a site of 495,000 square meters, in which humanity and nature can be unified. Many of them are famous - such as Park No-hae, an iconic poet during the democracy movement, painter Lim Ok-sang and the folk singers Cheong Tae-chun and Park Eun-ok. These 300 people can be compared with the seven reclusive scholars of China.

Their goal is not simply to live with like-minded people, but to establish a cultural base that will ultimately link the South and the North. They are building the village in the region that would be the first victim of artillery fire when a war is reignited.

Around the time of the 2002 World Cup, homes will have been built and galleries and bookstores will open up. Then we may see a community that truly lives and works together. We have great expectations for this alternative movement that tries to escape cynicism and passivity. In this era of nature destruction and growing isolation of individuals, these utopian dreamers will be the ones with the key to the future. Idealists dream together, rather than making a dash for the exit one by one.

The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Ilbo publications.

by Cho Woo-suk

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