[OUTLOOK]‘Turn around and uraksha!’In Irkutsk, a city in central Siberia, you can see buses with Korean signs. Even the interior of these buses are filled with signs in Korean informing the passengers that smoking isn’t allowed and to turn off their mobile phones. The buses must be the ones exported by South Korea. Advertisements for Orion Choco-pies adorn the insides of Irkutsk’s streetcars and commercials for Korean instant noodles are frequently aired on television. Some 150 million packs of ramen were imported into Russia from Korea last year. Ramen companies expect exports to double this year. This means every Russian consumes an average of two packs of Korean ramen per year.
The biggest department store in Irkutsk sells Samsung and LG mobile phones that an average laborer in this country couldn’t buy with a month’s salary. Sixty to 70 percent of outdoor advertisements in Moscow are for Korean products. Korean goods are advertised all over the city ― Samsung and LG electronic products, cigarettes and watches. It is reported that on a visit to Moscow in 1999, the former Chinese President Jiang Zemin asked the Russian protocol officer who was riding with him from the airport why there were so many advertisements for Korean products but none for Chinese ones. The Russian is said to have replied, “China, too, can advertise its products if it pays the fees.”
Scholars say that Lake Baikal was the place of origin of the Korean people. Siberian and Manchurian plains were the lands of our ancestors. The shamanistic rites of the Bryats, a Mongolian tribe that live near the lake, are almost the same as ours. They circle their glasses three times over incense at ancestral rituals as we do and offer food to their ancestors before eating as we do. Our ancestors left that land to settle in the Korean Peninsula. The recent controversy over China’s attempt to distort the history of Goguryeo is because of the footsteps that our ancestors left in that land.
The realization of how we could overcome China’s attempts to distort the history of Goguryeo dawned on me when I was standing in the middle of the Siberian plains. I also came to believe that the efforts had already started. No matter how much we protest and criticize China from our tiny spot in the Korean Peninsula, China won’t bat an eye. Using military force, of course, is out of the question. We must win this fight with our point of strength. Our point of strength is our economy. Siberians are holding our mobile phones in their hands, riding our cars and eating our food. If Korean products reach the corners of the vast territory that used to be Goguryeo’s, then we have already regained the kingdom of Goguryeo. And we won’t stay in Goguryeo. We will expand our territory to the ends of the Siberian continent, even to the ends of the world. This is the way to overcome the attempts to distort the history of Goguryeo.
Above all, it is important that we keep our eyes set on the right target. If we keep our eyes turned inward, we will start to contract. What would come of it if we did nothing but stare at each other cramped in this tiny land? Why are we counting the spoons of our neighbors and complaining that they are living a better life than we are when they themselves aren’t any better than us? Let’s not waste our lives in petty comparisons. It is a pity seeing so many of our young people out on the streets on any given day with red bands around their heads looking for just about anything to get angry about and demonstrate against. There are so many things to do if we turn our eyes outward. Why are we wasting our lives trying to get at our neighbors?
Those who keep their eyes focused inside cannot see in front of them. How could they when their head is bowed? It is the same with our recent obsession with setting history right. How can we see ahead when we are so busy looking for mistakes inside us? Those who cling to the past cannot see the future.
The leader of a country must see the entire country as a whole. When our country is viewed as a single “we,” our eyes will turn to the bigger world and see the bigger prize. We will start thinking about the future and not the past. We will look ahead and not back. In the language of the Bryats, there is no word for “go backward.” The Bryat language only has a word for “forward,” which is uraksha. When the Bryats want to go backward, they say, “Turn around and uraksha.” The reason the Mongols were able to conquer the world was because of this uraksha spirit.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk