[FOUNTAIN]Your tie is crookedJune 1987 was hot; summer had visited Korea earlier than usual. At the time, students and citizens added more heat to the streets of Seoul.
Office workers wearing white shirts and neckties, originally spectators of the scenes of the June 1987 democratization movement, increasingly became active supporting demonstrators and protected those who were being arrested by the police.
The office workers then even engaged in stone-hurling rallies, shouting, “Down with dictatorship!”
They were called “necktie troops,” and changed the way the democratization movement was conducted. Just as the protests by university professors during the April 19 student uprising in 1961 had a deep impact on society, these Koreans did the same. For many, those were the times when fluttering light neckties appeared to have a heavy weight.
There is another anecdote that shows the power of neckties:
A theater actor wearing a suit and a tie told passers-by on a street, “Please give me bus fare; I lost my wallet.” The actor collected more than 100,000 won ($84) in two hours. There were even people who gave him taxi fare. When the same actor did the same thing wearing blue jeans and a jacket, he only collected about 10,000 won. This is the story a human resources company provided; it shows how well suits and neckties are accepted in Korean society ― even though I couldn’t confirm whether the story was true.
President Roh Moo-hyun last March told his Blue House secretaries, “At least while you are wearing neckties you keep vigilant and behave moderately.” But Rhyu Simin, a newly elected lawmaker of a reformist party and one of those who is considered to have a “code” matching that of Mr. Roh, wore casual clothes with no tie when he tried to take his oath of office at the National Assembly on his first day there.
Many lawmakers protested Mr. Rhyu’s attire, calling it inappropriate, and Mr. Rhyu’s swearing-in was delayed to the next day.
Lee Chang-dong, the minister of culture and tourism, also has been going tieless since his first day at the ministry.
Is it because they tightened their ties or because they loosened them that the office workers of June 1987 shed tears with the democratization movement? How do they, most of them now in their 40s and 50s, see the current world?
by Lee Se-jeong
The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.