[INSIGHT]Of evil, elections and World Cups

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[INSIGHT]Of evil, elections and World Cups

There is no evil in Korean psychology. C. Fred Alford, a professor at the University of Maryland, concluded this notion in his book with this surprising title: "Think No Evil: Korean Values in the Age of Globalization" (Cornell University Press, 1999).

Evil in a Western culture comes from confrontation, which divides people distinctly. But in Korea, where people prefer a nondescript expression like "we," evil doesn't seem to work. The Koreans even have let betrayers of the country enjoy such tolerance as "Condemn the offense and not its perpetrator," Mr. Alford wrote.

Why do we say devil even though there is no evil here? Someone could be outraged that there is a loophole in national security, after seeing hundreds of thousands devils running across the country in red colors.

The shouting of the "Reds" is a first for reporters covering the World Cup finals as well as for television viewers around the world. We don't know what's on their minds but it should be some mysterious spectacle for them that Koreans cheered for their soccer team in a harmony of frenzy and order.

One foreign journalist, who got a ticket for one of the World Cup matches for free from a Korean host, told the world of Korea's kindness by writing a story that is worth a million times of the actual price of the ticket. I also liked watching these red guys' courageous new world armed with Internet communications and a T-shirt. But psychologists such as Gustave Le Bon and Sigmund Freud concluded that all the collective things are unconscious and all the unconscious things are collective. Such a state of collective unconsciousness is a hotbed of populism.

Mr. Alford said that soap opera is one of the factors that contributes to Koreans' identities. All the broadcasting companies put soap operas on the air, which are filled with humor, tears and catharsis every day, dozens of times in a week. Every night, cameras show close-ups of heroes and heroines to dramatize the slightest change in their feelings.

Well, should a soap opera-style be one of our national characteristics? The broadcasting cameras moved through the crowd, which lined up in the rain and folded umbrellas for people behind them and cleaned the streets after the matches. Newspaper writers asked for restraint in sentimental cheering before the match between Korea and the United States, and put such stories that we were happy with no disgraceful affairs, such as anti-American demonstrations, after the game. Is excessive politeness impolite? The spokesman of the U.S. Soccer Federation gently pointed out that the concern for anti-Americanism looked like an exaggeration of the Korean news media. Damn! What did we do wrong? Should we have had to instigate to show off fully the devil's true character?

An officer in the Pentagon reportedly said after the match was tied 1-1 that the draw confirmed once again the alliance relationship of the two countries. It was such a comedy! Do we have to be an ally even when we're on the playground? Must we confirm an alliance relationship by making sure the game end in a draw?

Mr. Alford jeers at our "duplicity in front of the camera." According to him, a broadcasting station in South Korea visited Japan in 1997 and took pictures of a Tokyo street at midnight. When the light turned red, all the cars stopped. In Seoul, no cars would stop. It's the same thing even at midday. The Koreans that Mr. Alford interviewed loved the program very much.

What I worry about is the reality that a camera doesn't cover. There was a World Food Summit in Rome and a local election in Korea. I felt a surge of anger when I witnessed fanatics sitting up all night for a few days in order to buy a ticket for a World Cup match, and then saw a photograph that showed a little dog roaming about and few people on the stump for local elections.

As usual, I am confused whether that scene was the voters' irresponsibility or the photographer's. What is the problem with the camera? It's the people who make news. Let's put aside for a while the original sin of politics, which doesn't bring as much fun as soccer. But I expected mature voters as much as loyal soccer spectators because we need good government much more than we need World Cup fever.

Guus Hiddink, the head coach of the Korean team said, "He failed, but that is part of football," after one of his players, Lee Eul-yong, did not convert a penalty kick in the match with the United States.

We must memorize that saying as a dictum of 2002. If small parts make the whole, they could not be evil or of the devil even though they are part of something shabby.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Joseph W. Chung

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