[FOUNTAIN]Kang’s argument entails its own risks

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[FOUNTAIN]Kang’s argument entails its own risks

“Others love their freedom, but I prefer submission/ It’s not that I don’t know freedom. I just want to submit to you/ Willing submission is sweeter than exalted freedom,” wrote poet Han Yong-un in “Submission.” As a different concept from patriotism, “voluntary submission” has long been an interest in philosophy and political science. Scholars studied the concept in order to explain why people willingly submit to someone other than God. The phrase, “voluntary submission,” first appeared in Plato’s “Symposium.” However, 16th century French philosopher Etienne de La Boetie wrote the first paper exploring the concept, “Discours de la servitude volontaire,” or “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.” In his paper, Mr. La Boetie criticized tyranny and autocracy and stressed that voluntary submission fostered both.
The almost anarchic philosophy of Mr. Boetie has since been exploited by many groups, who modified and added to his theory at their discretion. At the time of the Huguenot Wars in France, the Protestants republished Mr. La Boetie’s book under the title, “About a Dictator,” and exploited it as a means to attack the Catholics. Cardinal Richelieu, who had suppressed Protestant rebellions, had to pay the price of five guns to buy the book. During the French Revolution, “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” became a slogan of the revolutionists.
In Korea, Mr. La Boetie’s philosophy became briefly popular during the autocratic Yusin era, only to disappear soon after. Now, Professor Kang Jeong-koo of Dongguk University has brought up the theory again. Why is he talking about “voluntary submission” when Korea has been through the “civilian government” of Kim Young-sam, the “people’s government” of Kim Dae-jung, and now are living the era of Roh Moo-hyun’s “participatory government?” Professor Kang is referring to the United States, as is appropriate in the age of globalization, and claims Korea is voluntarily submitting to the United States. His argument deviates from Mr. La Boetie’s theory, owing to the perspective of leftist historians, who always consider the populace as the subject of resistance.
Opportunely, October 3 is the day the Korean army broke through the 38th parallel with the U.S. forces. It is also the day Germany was unified after 45 years of division. Professor Kang, who claims that unification of the Korean Peninsula might have been possible if the U.S. Forces had not entered the war, might be posing as Korea’s Moses. He repeatedly entreats Koreans to wake from their servitude to the United States. I only hope his version of the Promised Land is not a place with millions dying of starvation instead of one flowing with milk and honey.


by Lee Hoon-beom

The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.
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