[FOUNTAIN]A ‘geondal’ government?Many Korean words come from Buddhism. It is because Buddhism has greatly affected the lives and minds of the Korean people. For example, the word “myeonmok,” which means countenance, was a Buddhist term used to describe the pure and clean essence of a person, the nature of Buddha. The word “mileo,” meaning lover’s whispers, applied to “words that delivered the truth of Buddhism.” The word “tugi,” meaning speculation, also has its origin in Buddhism. It initially had a decent meaning of “opening one’s mind to achieve the awakening of Buddha.”
Similarly, the Buddhist term “geondal” now has a different meaning and impression. The word comes from Gandharva, the god of music in Sanskrit. When the term was introduced in Korea it was written in Chinese characters as “geondalba.” This god lives in the southern Geumgang Cave in Mount Sumi, an imaginary mountain in the center of the world, and is in charge of all the music in heaven. Gandharva does not eat meat or drink alcohol, lives only by the scent of incense and is one of the eight gods that protect Buddhism. It is said that the Buddhist practice of lighting incense comes from the custom of worshiping Gandharva.
Fragrance and music cannot be held in one’s hands. For this reason, “Gandharva’s castle” used to mean mirage. The Buddhist saying, “Life is like the castle of Gandharva,” is equivalent to saying “life is but a dream.”
Beginning in the middle of the Joseon Dynasty, the word “geondal” was used to describe people “who loaf around” and are libertines. During the period when the noble class looked down on popular arts, the status of “geondal” also declined.
Ahn Byung-jik, a progressive economist and professor emeritus of Seoul National University, aroused controversy by calling the Roh Moo-hyun government a ”geondal government.” He said, “This government is doing nothing, not only in domestic politics but also in international relations.” He also said, “It is no more than a garbage can full of ideas, since it is just launching new projects without any plan.” Some parts of his criticism could be considered unreasonable.
Even so, the reaction of the Blue House and the governing party was immature. Their comments, such as “How can a professor make comments like a ‘prodigal government,’” and “the Korean press reports such groundless assertion as news,” are single-minded responses. It is the same as letting the world know how narrow minded they are. Can’t the Blue House and the governing party pay more attention to the criticism they get? If they just change their attitude, they would be called a “noble government.”
by Lee Sang-il
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.