[FOUNTAIIN]When in Hong Kong, . . .“Going to Hong Kong” is a Korean slang term associated with drugs and sex. Decently speaking, it means “fantastic.” The origin of the slang is unknown. However, the most plausible explanation is that Hong Kong, an entrepot trade port, was more prosperous than its neighbors in the 1960s. The phrase evolved from the fact that Hong Kong, known for its nightlife and shopping, was a fun, fantastic destination.
The origin of the name “Hong Kong” is also not clear. The standard Chinese pronunciation of Hong Kong is Xianggang. It is the British influence that made Hong Kong known in the international community. Article three of the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing reads, “It being obviously necessary and desirable that British subjects should have some port whereat they may [maintain] and refit their ships when required, and keep stores for that purpose, His Majesty, the Emperor of China, cedes to Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain, etc., the Island of Hong-Kong, to be possessed in perpetuity by Her Britannic Majesty, her heirs and successors.” It sounded like Britain deserved to take a part of Chinese territory as a gift. The British began calling Xianggang Hong Kong, a local Cantonese dialect, and it spread around the world.
In September, 1982, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Beijing to discuss the future of Hong Kong. Having won the Falklands War against Argentina, Ms. Thatcher was in high spirits. However, she was no match for Deng Xiaoping. He said, “If China cannot take back Hong Kong, the Chinese government will be no different to the corrupt former Qing government.” The Iron Lady was so taken aback she slipped while leaving the Great Hall of the People. That incident was a prelude to the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty back to China.
While British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, the country left a considerable legacy behind, from place names such as Stanley Market to the social structure such as cars driving on the left. Incorruptible civil servants and police are considered the flowers of the Hong Kong administration. Lately, the Hong Kong police is in a state of emergency. It is preparing to respond to protestors from around the world, especially from Korea, who plan to visit Hong Kong for the World Trade Organization ministerial conference.
While 250,000 people participated in a demonstration for democracy in Hong Kong on December 4, no clash between demonstrators and the police was reported. Hopefully, the Korean protestors will visit Hong Kong without getting into a trouble. There is a saying that: “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.