[FOUNTAIN]What statues stand for“It will be a statue of love for the island. We may not be able to see it clearly, but it will be the first statue that we have built with our hands. Not one man will dare bring it down at least with their hands. As long as this island remains one for the lepers, the statue of love should stay here for a long, long time . . . .”
That is the monologue delivered by an old man, Mr. Hwang, quarantined in Sorokdo with leprosy in Lee Chung-joon’s novel, “Your Paradise.” In the novel set in the Japanese colonial period, Joo Jeong-su, the newly appointed chief of the leprosy hospital in Sorokdo, promises to turn the island into a paradise. Exalted at first, patients respond enthusiastically, industriously building barracks, bells, lamplights, parks and other facilities. But as the voluntary movement becomes a forced activity, the patients fall deep into a sense of betrayal. The fervor to build a paradise concludes with construction of a massive statue of Mr. Joo. Soon, the residents are asked to bow in front of the statue once a month. Pent-up anger and frustration drive the island’s patients to stab Mr. Joo, who dies in front of his own statue.
Western statues derive from figures carved into the top of coffins. The belief was the soul would not leave the body if a figure of the deceased was constructed. Then, what is the meaning of the bronze statue that appears in the novel “Your Paradise”? Most likely it is the product of a mind obsessed with authority and oppression and the desire for fame steeped in vanity.
To the 24 million Iraqis, the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue by a steel chain wrapped around its neck should have been an enormous shock. For Iraqis in their mid-30s who have known no other ruler but Hussein, who came into power as head of the Baath Party in 1979, the event might trigger psychological panic.
The sight of joyously celebrating Iraqis demonstrates how flawed and fluffed was the announcement made by the tyrannical government four months ago. The regime had claimed that “President Hussein’s tenure has been expanded for another seven years after a vote in which he won 100 percent of the ballots.”
Hussein’s statue followed the fate of statues of Lenin, Stalin, Marcos and Ceausescu. But the fact that American cranes helped to bring down the statue forebodes a future that may not be smooth.
by Noh Jai-hyun
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
Room for alignment
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin