[INSIGHT]Welcome to the neo-liberal gala

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[INSIGHT]Welcome to the neo-liberal gala

As of Friday, the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and Japan have become a stage for a monthlong international soccer competition. Thirty-two countries will set up national boundaries on the grass fields and 48 "battles" will be fought to advance to the second round of the tournament. During this time, the peoples of these 32 countries will be pouring their hearts into the progress of their national teams. In many of these countries, daily life will change dramatically when their teams are playing.

That is why Korea has turned into the country of the Red Devils, the unofficial supporters' club for the national team. Red Devils have taken over the territory, the people and the sovereignty of Korea. Any sissies who object to the use of "red" or "devil" in the name can all just leave the country.

The Red Devils have already taken complete control over the definitions and usage of the words they want. They invented a unique way of chanting their country's official name in Korean in unison: What starts out as a small voice grows bigger and slower, "Dae Han Min Guk!" like a call to arms on the field.

The Red Devils have already scared off the "reds," those who complain that the Republic of Korea is too anti-communist and too anti-unification. For the Red Devils, the Republic of Korea is their beloved homeland and their soccer team needs their prayers for victory.

In today's international society, there are no more national boundaries, especially in the field of commerce. It is the quality of the products and services provided that is important, not any political or sentimental alliances. As long as the quality and price of the product is fair, there is no differentiation between domestic and foreign products. The difference between domestic and foreign companies is melting even faster. Angry socialists have labeled this phenomenon "neo-liberalism" and criticize it harshly.

But this neo-liberalism and the World Cup go hand in hand. The only boundaries between countries that neo-liberalism acknowledges are such as are found in international sports competitions.

These boundaries bring harmony through competition, reciprocity through contention. In this sense, the World Cup is at the same time a war and a festival being played out on the fields of neo-liberalism. The Red Devils and their Republic of Korea co-own this neo-liberalism and its territory.

The phenomenon of neo-liberalism is also referred to as "globalization." Globalization makes light of the classical sense of "justice" that accompanied military conflict between countries and classified anyone who was on the other side of the boundary as an enemy. The Sept. 11 terror attack on the United States and the war on terrorism that U.S. President George Bush declared soon after the incident showed that terror groups can be an enemy behind the lines.

The reason the United States and its allies were perplexed in this war was not because they lacked military power but because they had no national boundaries to cross in the war. Because of the lopsided imbalance of power in this war, the United States ended up looking somewhat like Don Quixote charging at a windmill. The concept of nationalism nowadays is one in which only a country whose people come together for the World Cup will have people who are willing to come together in politics and economics.

A country is supposed to ward off invasions from the outside and to enforce the law on people inside. The World Cup is a war of country against country. The Red Devils' Republic of Korea sees advancing to the second round as a sign of victory and of crushing an outside invasion. The Republic of Korea has repeatedly failed to advance to the second round as it tried to go from being the No.1 soccer country in Asia to join the ranks of the world's dominant soccer powers.

The law of the World Cup is founded on globalization or neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism is neither dogma nor ideology. It is merely an emerging phenomenon that comes as part of an evolving human civilization.

The biggest characteristic of the World Cup is that it runs under both national and international law at the same time. The same rules apply to all teams in the same way. All teams are the guests, not the hosts; the World Cup rules.

Koreans should try to become like hosts who are like guests. We are all guests of globalization in this festival of the World Cup. It is not the role of a host in the age of globalization to boast of one's wealth, one's power or even one's culture.

A good host in a neo-liberal sense is not defined by how grand a feast one prepares, but how sincerely and kindly one greets the guests.


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The writer is the editor of Millennium-Emerge, a monthly magazine.

by Kang Wee-seuk

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