[FOUNTAIN]Slip of the tongue?

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[FOUNTAIN]Slip of the tongue?

Mental stress or hysteria makes most people queasy. Foul odors or sickening sights, figuratively or literally, can trigger an unpleasant reaction.

United Liberal Democrat Chairman Kim Jong-pil recently complimented President-elect Roh Moo-hyun as "candlelight during the daytime." That remark could have triggered a queasy feeling in a lot of stomachs.

"Some people, who, usually, have not been recognized by others, will bring light and joy after they are appointed to important positions," Mr. Kim said. "As an old Japanese proverb goes, they are referred to as candlelight during the daytime."

The JoongAng Ilbo criticized Mr. Kim's remarks in a cartoon by poking fun at them; some readers might have thought that the newspaper was being too harsh on the old politician. Other readers might have thought otherwise: Kim Jong-pil has always been cautious, waiting for the results of the election before commenting. Until the votes were tallied, Mr. Kim made no favorable comments about any candidate.

But is "candlelight in the daytime" really a Japanese proverb? Some Japanese living in Korea said they had never heard that saying before. Mizuno Shunpei, a Japanese literature professor at Chonnam National University, said, "As far as I know, there is no such old saying like that."

Kim Jong-pil could have been confusing another similar expression, hiru andon in Japanese. In English, it means "lamplight in the daytime."

Many Japanese residents here said the latter phrase is used to ridicule a person so dense that he lights a lamp during the day.

The clever old politician Kim Jong-pil has been through thick and thin over the last 40 years, watching all the important events in Korean political history. Mr. Kim is also infamous for making flattering remarks to new presidents, either elected or inaugurated after coups d'etat, and Koreans are getting fed up with his deceitful remarks.

The sly old man has also been very good at protecting himself from political disaster.

It makes us wonder whether he complimented President-elect Roh from the bottom of his heart or whether he borrowed a confusing Japanese expression and in fact tried to stab the new president of Korea in the back.

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

by Noh Jae-hyun

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