[FOUNTAIN]Buddhist nun makes point but should eatNorthern Ireland is the land of mystery. In the gentlemanly country of the Great Britain, the region is ridden with constant terrorist activities and blackmailing among armed resistance groups. One of the well-known symbols of Northern Ireland are political murals, especially the images of Bobby Sands. The portrait depicts his gaunt face and disheveled hair right before he died from a hunger strike in a Belfast prison. A core member of the Irish Republican Army, he died in 1981 from starvation after a 66-day hunger strike at the young age of 27.
The hunger strike was his last measure of protest as a man behind bars. He demanded that his organization was not a criminal one but a group of independence fighters. They should be treated not as criminals but as political offenders, he said. During the hunger strike in the prison, he won a seat in Parliament. However, the British government was unshaken. He continued the hunger strike, proclaiming that oppression only encourages the revolutionary passion for freedom. More that 100,000 people came to his funeral. The nine other members of the Irish Republican Army who remained in the prison followed the path of Mr. Sands died after hunger strikes. The life of Mr. Sands fueled the armed independence movement in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army holds a memorial procession remembering Mr. Sands every year.
In the history of Korea, patriotic scholars staged memorable hunger strikes in their struggle against imperial Japan. In 1906, Choi Ik-hyeon raised an independence army at age 74. When he was arrested and imprisoned on Tsushima island, he didn’t eat because he did not wish to sustain his life with rice from the enemy. When the body of the old fighter was returned to Busan, mourning crowds gathered to pay condolences. Many scholars wrote tribute poems at the funeral, and Hwang Hyeon wrote, “Where should we bury the dolorous bones of the fighter?” Four years later, when Korea was officially annexed by Japan, Mr. Hwang gave up eating and drinking for six days and killed himself by swallowing a lump of opium.
The Venerable Jiyul desperately believes in saving the habitat of the salamander. Her cry has reverberated around the country, and the nation has learned enough of her cause. She should stop fasting and save her life.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.