[FOUNTAIN]A portrait of a marginal man?“Each time, he learns the rules of this world, but each time, he forgets them. Is the world anesthetized? Is his skull anesthetized? Each time, he cannot place his judgment...From margin to margin, from edge to edge, the marginal man tumbles around, drifting along, disarranging his map, mixing time, blankly.”
The poem is “A Portrait of the Marginal Man” by Choi Seung-ja, in which she discussed the condition of modern man who cannot accept the “rules” of the center and endlessly spins around the margin.
Karl Marx described a marginal man with a similar concept of isolation. He thought of the worker as a marginal man whose surplus value is taken away by the capitalist in a capitalist society. Marginal man belongs to a class that drifts to the margin of the main culture, the market. But sociologists’ definition is much broader: a man who does not follow the main standards of a group but also does not follow the standards of another group that challenges the first one.
In some respects, all of us belong to this category. Every adolescent is a psychological marginal man who shows an ambiguous attitude belonging neither to a child nor to an adult. It is the same with a public official who has a conflict between public profit and personal profit, and a working woman who cannot totally concentrate on either the role of homemaker or that of office worker.
Sociologists also describe marginal man as a boundary man or border man. Song Du-yul, a Korean sociologist who lives in Germany, called himself a marginal man in an Oct. 2 interview. He may have been referring to his situation, which cannot belong to either South Korea or North Korea. But if we note only the results of an investigation by the National Intelligence Service, in the past he was not in the marginal area. He is said to have joined North Korea’s Workers’ Party, received money from North Korea and carried out pro-North activities.
If that is true, it is hard for South Korean society to willingly accept Mr. Song as a marginal man because he can be considered an intellectual who did not try to learn the “rules” of South Korea but positively learned the “rules” of the other side.
If an investigation by prosecutors also confirms his pro-North activity, it seems that he should throw away the “portrait of a marginal man.” Then, at least, most South Korean people may be able to accept him.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.