[FOUNTAIN]Samurai spirit needed for this economy

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[FOUNTAIN]Samurai spirit needed for this economy

The legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto’s fame is due to shinken shobu, or combat to the death with real swords. He is considered the most formidable samurai in Japanese history because he never lost in mortal combat. He first killed an opponent in shinken shobu when he was 13, and never lost in more than 60 duels, until he was 29. He had only one goal ― becoming the most powerful samurai ― and did not get married, concentrating on training and combat as a ronin, a wandering, masterless samurai.
These days, shinken shobu is hard to find. In modern Japanese fencing, real swords are rarely used, and players train with bamboo swords. The swordsmen of Haedong fencing, the Korean traditional sect, ultimately want to use real swords. They would use wooden swords in training, then use real ones once they reach a certain level. But even in the Haedong sect, dueling with real swords is extremely rare.
Shinken shobu is dangerous. The duel is over when one side is dead or injured badly enough to give up the fight. The combatants should be determined to risk their lives. So jingeom seungbu, the Korean equivalent of shinken shobu, has become a widely used term referring to a confrontation between rivals that continues until one side falls.
In the Korean standard dictionary, “jingeom seungbu” and “jingeom” do not exist, since they come from Japanese. So some critics insist that the Japanese expression should not be used.
“Jingeom seungbu” is one of the favorite phrases of Lee Hun-jai, the newly appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs. In his August 2000 resignation speech after his first stint as deputy prime minister, he said that restructuring could not be achieved by pretension or imitation, and that it was a jingeom seungbu in which no rehearsal is allowed. He made it clear that restructuring was the biggest challenge that would determine the fate of the nation and the citizens.
In his second inauguration to the post on Wednesday, Mr. Lee emphasized that the Korean economy today has no time for drills or for the trial and errors of amateurs. It might be shocking to hear the diagnosis that the Korean economy cannot afford any mistakes. But if Mr. Lee is as determined to overcome the economic crisis as a samurai going into shinken shobu, it makes us look forward to his swordplay.


by Lee Se-jung

The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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