[FOUNTAIN]Don’t be too impatient with history

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[FOUNTAIN]Don’t be too impatient with history

The late professor Min Tu-ki regarded “competition with time” as a common trait in East Asia’s modern history. Particularly in the 20th century, he wrote, China and Japan impatiently pursued historic goals, he said. These two Asian giants were short of breath from racing with history.
The Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Wen claimed that the “three principles of the people” would enable China to quickly achieve political and social changes that were accomplished gradually elsewhere. He said China could surpass the West right away. Mao Zedong was much the same; the ruthless leader said history in China should unfold in hours and days, even if it took 10,000 years elsewhere. Such impatience, wrote Professor Min, led to the catastrophic failures of the “Great Leap Forward” and the Cultural Revolution. Today’s China maintains its success thanks to the relatively relaxed long-term goals set by Deng Xaioping.
Japan was obsessed with the idea of joining the ranks of imperialists as soon as possible, which led to the invasion of China and a war in the Pacific. Its imperialistic ambition brought tragedy not only to Japan but to the world. After World War II, Japan continued to strive for economic expansion, but Professor Min was doubtful of Japan’s capability to be a world power, because of the haunting memories of unrestrained expansionism.
Impatience can be a force for social development and prosperity. But unless it is properly guided, it can overflow and cause a national catastrophe, wrote Professor Min in his book “Competition with Time: Revolutions and Expansions in East Asia.”
Korea is no mean rival when it comes to impatience, which certainly helped it achieve rapid economic development. But a side effect was the financial crisis of 1997.
In last week’s National Assembly election, Our Open Party became the majority party. This is the first time since the constitutional revision of 1987 that the ruling party (in this case, the de facto ruling party) has also had an Assembly majority. Critics presume the Roh Moo-hyun administration, encouraged by the results, will hurry to implement changes in society.
But we should all remember Professor Min’s teaching. When tackling the tasks of the times, we shouldn’t try to race against history.


by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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