[FOUNTAIN]Why pack the homeless away?The Korean word musukja is literally translated as a person who has no home in which to sleep.
But in the past, not only the impoverished homeless but also those who became vagabonds for political and social reasons were called musukja. Accordingly the word had a somewhat romantic air.
A number of revolutionaries, who were called "romantic exiles," wandered around Paris, Berlin, Manchuria, Shanghai and Irkutsk in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, an age of revolution.
In the United States, homeless wanderers have existed from the frontier days until now. In Japan, we can see the homeless sleeping in houses made of cardboard boxes at subway stations.
There are also movies that have homeless wanderers as heroes. In a Hollywood western called "My Name is Nobody," the vagabond gunman protagonist is an apostle of justice. In Korea, Shin Sang-ok, a director, made films titled "Majeok" (Bandit) and "Musukja" that have homeless wanderers as heroes.
But the word musukja is not always used romantically. It now is more frequently used for social failures who sleep on the street. There are many such persons around Seoul's subway stations.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to keep the homeless in out-of-the-way areas during the World Cup games and try to convince them to enter rehabilitation centers.
The plan reminds me of the behavior of the Soviet authorities during the 1980 Moscow Olympic games. The Soviet government kept prostitutes, who were usually active around hotels where foreigners stayed, out of sight during the Moscow Olympics. But the roundup plan could not be hidden completely; a series of reports and articles disclosed what the government had done.
Among the writings on the subject, the most famous is "Stars in the Morning Sky," by Alexander Galin. It is a story about a prostitute detained in a concentration camp and an officer working at the camp. Galin won a number of prizes with the play.
We can understand the Seoul Metropolitan Government's motivation. But there are homeless wanderers in Paris, New York and even in Japan, the joint host of the World Cup games. Rather than hiding them away, let's leave them in peace.
But we should show the efforts we make for the homeless so they can feel some human warmth. That is more democratic and a better way of showing Korea's attitude to foreign visitors.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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