[FOUNTAIN]Diamond-studded rights abuses

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[FOUNTAIN]Diamond-studded rights abuses

The Rhodes Scholarship, a renowned British academic program at Oxford University, has awarded scholarships to many professionals around the world, including Bill Clinton. The scholarships were established through property bequeathed by Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902). Mr. Rhodes was an entrepreneur and politician in the British African colony of Rhodesia.

In 1887, Mr. Rhodes founded the De Beers Mining Co, which now controls about 65 percent of the world's diamond market.

"A diamond is forever" is a popular catchphrase produced by a woman copywriter, Francis Gerety, in April 1947. After struggling for nights to come up with the right words, Ms. Gerety said she completed the phrase the morning after she prayed, "Please, God, give me the words." The phrase is credited for the sale of millions of jewels for weddings and engagements. Since the average lifespan of love is short, people seem to purchase the illusion of "forever" through this magical phrase.

Related phrases such as "Two months' salary is worth spending on a diamond engagement ring" and "How can you make two months' salary last forever?" helped De Beers sell its products.

But the picture of young men and women exchanging diamond rings, always excluded any sense of bloodshed in the African continent. Internal wars in Angola, the Congo and Sierra Leone were, in fact, fights over diamonds.

According to African human rights groups, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola has made 4.8 trillion won ($4 billion) since 1992 from illegal diamond trading. In addition, about 26,000 people have died by weapons the union bought with its profits.

De Beers, too, was attacked internationally for purchasing diamonds covered with blood. It is a relief that diamond-producing nations recently signed an agreement in Switzerland de-manding that in January 2003 all diamond producers must issue a certificate with each diamond sold, guaranteeing that the gem was legally mined.

But is it only diamonds that are covered with blood? Accor-ding to a recent report, children in India and Pakistan work 12 hours a day for 25 cents to produce Fevernova soccer balls, which were used during the World Cup matches. Stories like this tend to make us look again at any diamond ring.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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