[VIEWPOINT]Politics is a great deal like soccer

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[VIEWPOINT]Politics is a great deal like soccer

In Plato's "Republic," there is a conversation between Socrates and two young men of Athens, through which Plato states that the third element constituting the human soul along with desire and reason is "spirit" or "courage."

A more accurate translation into Korean of "thymos," the Greek word Plato used, would be "gigae," consisting of the Chinese characters "gi" for energy and "gae" for overall, thus meaning "overall energy." The key point of this conversation is that the state of gigae in each individual influences the state of the community or nation he is part of.

Anyone who has been watching the World Cup matches, anyone who's being shouting "Dae-han-min-guk" at the top of his lungs while watching those matches, would have been surprised not only at Korea's victories but at the unity of the people and the force of our people's particular brand of jubilant gigae, the sinbaram within us.

The most precious thing we have earned in this World Cup is refinding our gigae along with ourselves. We discovered the brave and the daring ready to meet the future -- within us. Some might worry about the danger of chauvinism that could find its way through this wave of passion. Do not fear. Is not the Korean national team representative of an open nationalism (as opposed to chauvinism) ready to co-exist with the globalization of the world?

Which country does our hero, Guus Hiddink, come from? Didn't our fears about an outburst of anti-American sentiment during the World Cup prove to have been unnecessary? Among the crowd shouting "Dae-han-min-guk" and singing "Oh, Pilseung (Victory) Korea" while dancing in the streets, there were people from all over the world who had come to cheer for their national teams.

This World Cup gave the world an unprecedented case of a multicultural mass of enormous size and passion that could still keep order. The street cheering rallies seen everywhere in Korea proved our maturity as citizens while acting as a cultural code that the young generation of Korea sent out to the world.

If there were any alarming signs to be found in this World Cup, it was the cliquish attitude of a certain prominent American columnist who belittled the significance of the soccer competition suggesting that to the American people, there were only baseball, basketball and American football.

Some people say that the World Cup is just a war with a different kind of weapon. That is a mistake. The World Cup happens to be just a sports competition. That is why we should resist going overboard about identifying the honor of the nation and the people with the outcome of the matches.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that we should not use the patriotic and national spirit that was reaffirmed through the World Cup matches as the driving force behind the economic development and the social integration of the country. In fact, that would be a very fine and admirable thing.

On Sunday, the World Cup will come to an end. Soon the excitement and the fever that we felt throughout the competition will have cooled. Many people are worried about what to do, what to be happy about after the World Cup ends. Thinking about the boring, definitely sinbaram-less politics of our country, the worries deepen. Rest assured, there are plenty of things to do. Festivals exist for the everyday life. A festival is a time and a place to restore energy for the resumption of everyday life.

Until now, our politics had put a sleeping spell on the infinite potential of our "Korean gigae," or shibaram. Now it is time for the politicians to put an end to the stagnation that has come over this country and its people. Don't even try to lead the people. Forget about preaching to them. Just think about what you, politicians, can do. Set goals and visions show us that you are trying. That is all we ask.

Do as what you felt when watching our soccer team fight and what you learned from Guus Hiddink. If politicians stopped fighting one another, they'd realize that politics is very much resembles soccer.

Fix a clear goal! Keep your promises to the people! Play within the rules! Assume responsibility and act diligently! Appoint your men and women according to their abilities, not where they were born, what families they come from or what schools they were educated in. Maximize the efficiency of your competitive skills!

A cleaner and livelier political competition would be sure to bring the sinbaram out of people in their everyday lives. There is no reason that we should have heroes because this is the modern age of cynicism, because this is Korea.


The writer is a professor of political science at Kookmin University.

by Kim Young-jak

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