[FOUNTAIN]The cycle should end end nowIn the mid-19th century, a great famine hit Ireland, the so-called Potato Famine. The potato was the staple food and infectious diseases ruined its harvest, leading to mass starvation. The famine, along with a cholera epidemic, killed 1.5 million people. Another 1 million people emigrated to the United States.
Great Britain, which ruled many parts of the world then, ignored the tragedy. The Irish grew to harbor hard feelings against the British. The Irish folk song "Londonderry Air" reflects this sentiment. The resentment the Irish have for the British is a key to understanding the conflicts in Northern Ireland.
Many Germans are overweight. Germany's statistical office said two years ago that 47 percent of Germans were obese. The rate of obesity was highest among seniors aged 65 or older; 73 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women. That generation suffered terribly from poverty and hunger after World War II. When Germany's economy revived in the 1960s and 1970s, these people overindulged on food.
These examples demonstrate that foreigners also have "han," the feeling of anger and sorrow, and they have vented their spite. Nonetheless, the han of foreigners cannot be compared with that of Koreans, whose history is a history of han, full of invasion, exploitation and poverty.
As Koreans have grown richer, they have not simply relied on renunciation. They have vented their spite at full volume. Wasted food seems to be a way of compensating for hunger. The incidence of lobbying by politicians by offering expensive clothing a few years ago, apartments being built all over the country and bumper-to-bumper traffic are the result of people trying to overcompensate for not owning enough.
Those in power have abused their positions to satisfy their personal grudges. Former Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo embezzled hundreds of billions of won. Ex-President Kim Young-sam arrested them to avenge oppression by the militaristic governments of Mr. Chun and Mr. Roh. The current administration was tainted with witch hunting. The series of accusations over alleged financial frauds committed by President Kim Dae-jung's relatives and close allies is the result of difficult times they experienced in the past.
We hope that the new president forgets about political revenge and severs the vicious cycle of such revenge and compensation.
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik