[FOUNTAIN]A tragedy envelops the NepaleseWhen the world celebrated the start of the new millennium on New Year’s Day in 2000, writer Kim Mi-jin, who had just returned from the Himalayas, put her palms together and said, “namaste.” It is a greeting of Nepal, and can be translated as “I worship the God in you,” but it can also be translated as “We share the same soul.”
In 2002, a Nepalese woman named Chandra Kumari Gurung reminded us of the meaning of namaste. Ms. Gurung, who came to Seoul as an industrial trainee, was mistakenly viewed as a homeless mental patient in 1993 because of her ragged clothes and poor Korean. She was forced to live in a mental institution for over six years. Nature Trail for the Beauty of this Earth, an environmental organization, learned of her case and rescued Ms. Gurung to send her back to Nepal. When the group raised funds for Ms. Gurung, she repeated “namaste” and said, “I will never forget your kindness.” Ashamed of what we had done to her in the first place, we could only utter “namaste” back.
Nepal is unstable and poor. Disputes among the royal family, the ruling party and the communist rebels continuously torment the Himalayan nation. Maoist rebels recently blockaded the capital of Kathmandu and cut off supplies for six days. This week, 12 Nepalese kidnapped by an Iraqi militant group were murdered. Just like Ms. Gurung, they were young Nepalese who went abroad to work in order to overcome poverty.
Without knowing what they were getting into, they were tempted by the offer to earn three times the annual per-capita national income of $240 in just one month and worked as cooks and cleaners in the Middle East. Many people have been involved in the effort to save two French hostages, but the abduction of the Nepalese had been forgotten for 12 days. Nepal had refused Washington’s request to send troops to Iraq, and contrary to the terrorists’ claim, the victims were not Buddhists, but Hindus.
On Wednesday, Kathmandu was devastated by violence as a mosque and a Jordanian recruiting company were attacked and burned down. Furious at the lukewarm response of the government toward the hostage killings, citizens are staging protests all over the city and the tension is elevating. Even the purest souls living in the Himalayas cannot stand the ugly war. Namaste.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.