[FOUNTAIN]Forums and discussionMost Western cities developed around public squares, or forums. The ancient Greeks were first to live around the forums, and throughout the Roman Empire, forums became an essential part of Western cities.
Ancient Greeks gathered in public squares called agora. The agora was the center of the society in ancient Greek city-states, where the citizens would practice religion, politics, law, commerce, and social interaction.
Romans had a similar tradition of forums. As discussion and communication became the cultural characteristic of Romans, forums started to be specialized, such as a fora civilia for justice and benelie for commerce.
Debate and discussion were the essence of public squares in Rome, and the legacy of forum discussion is still alive at the present time.
In the medieval period, the public squares started to serve unique purposes. The space in front of cathedrals and churches became the center of trade and commerce, while political debates would take place around the residences of the powerful figures of the city.
Public squares prospered even more during the Renaissance. City designs always included squares. As the city grew, public space began to focus more on the commercial functions than the original purpose of communication or discussion.
The advent of the Industrial Revolution changed things. As the new cities were constructed to accommodate the ideas of capitalism, citizens started to lose interest in public squares, and railroads, factories, and buildings were constructed at the hearts of cities. When over-industrialization led to psychological emptiness, modern citizens started to revisit the idea of public squares to offset the desolation of the urban life in the late 20th century.
New city designs began to include public spaces again, and the original meaning of the forums, communication and discussion, was revived. Countries began to organize international forums to address common issues.
The 5th Korea-Russia Forum was opened in Moscow on Oct. 16. The candid and comprehensive discussion was a symbol of the communication and exchange between the two countries. Once again, the forum has proven the virtue of forum discussion that has been handed down from the days of the agora.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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