‘Nawabari’ at HyundaiAt one time, the phrase, “Am I your little runt?” from the Korean movie, “Friends” was a popular saying. Gangster movies like “Number Three,” “My Wife is a Gangster,” and “Marrying the Mafia,” commonly use the Japanese phrase “nawabari,” which is the reason for strife among these gangsters. “Nawabari” means “jurisdiction,” “territory,” “region” and “sphere of influence.” It refers to a construction site roped off to restrict entrance; however, when using these terms, it lessens the primordial overtone of the brutal struggle for survival.
Ethology refers to “nawabari” as “territory.” The animal carves out its territory and prohibits other fish or animals from entering. It is not playful like the elementary school child who draws a line in the middle of the desk, preventing a schoolmate from crossing the line. It is an animalistic, instinctive demarcation created to preserve provisions and propagation, and the failure to maintain the demarcation results in death and extinction.
The master of the territory can be one animal, a male and female, or even a group. A group-controlled territory can be divided into smaller regions according to rank. Other monkeys cannot sit in the place where the king monkey rests. Male frogs in mating season are positioned differently ― the strongest frog with the loudest cry sits in the middle.
Organized crime uncannily resembles the struggle for territory exhibited in the animal world. The Japanese yakuza started in gambling to pursue profits. In the Japanese counterpart to Blackjack, 8 (Ya), 9 (ku), and 3 (sa) add up to 20, which is the worst possible score; hence, yakuza refers to “good-for-nothing gangsters.” They fight like hyenas for the sake of their vested interests, without shame, disregarding civility. Calling destitute North Koreans, who had nobody to depend on after the Korean War, “38 Misfits” followed the same rationale. Politicians are on par with the yakuza when laying down his or her life to protect his territory (electoral district). Electoral districts survive or die depending on the minimum population of the district.
“Nawabari” also exists in the global corporation, Hyundai Motors. Five hundred workers at the fifth Terracan automobile factory, which they tore down to build a new auto factory, are at home until October receiving full wages. Although the second factory suffered from a shortage of workers, the labor union refused to send these workers because they worried they would lose their jobs as labor union representatives if they did. Human beings are different from animals in that fences are made to protect special privileges, not for survival.
The writer is an editorial writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jin-Kook