[Viewpoint]Bulky weaklings

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[Viewpoint]Bulky weaklings

Yesterday morning was reportedly the coldest one this year. In this weather, one can easily catch a cold. But on the same chilly day, some were fine while others were seriously affected. Why the difference? Obviously, it is due to differences in people’s tolerance and immunity to the vagaries of the weather.
People who exercise regularly and stay healthy are not easily affected by cold weather or a cold virus. On the other hand, some people get a sore throat with the slightest exposure to cold winds, or go to bed sick whenever there is a warning of the flu. They are usually considered to be weaklings.
Just as doctors are interested in patients, so am I. My job is to observe society and be curious about it. People around the world usually praise Korea, calling it the world’s 11th-largest trading power, a country that succeeded in achieving democratization and industrialization in one generation and the world’s top IT power.
But is our society as healthy and deserving of such praise? Perhaps we are bulky weaklings.
Two incidents come to mind. One is the recent disturbance over an alleged cell phone battery explosion, and the other is the scandal over the BBK investment fraud. Until the truth was discovered, the cell phone battery accident at a quarry in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong had roiled our society for 38 hours.
Almost everyone these days has a cell phone. How surprised people must have been to hear that a cell phone battery explosion caused the death of its owner.
Reporters, too, talked about the incident when they gathered in the newsroom. A reporter said, “From now on, I will make sure to carry my cell phone in my back pocket.”
Another added, “Right, not in the upper pocket near the heart, nor the front pocket of your pants.”
Even the stock price of the cell phone company in question fell. It is necessary to trace back why the incident caused such concern, but there is no great mystery behind it.
The medical expert who had examined the body said, “It is assumed he is dead because his heart and lungs were hurt due to pressure from the explosion [of the cell phone battery].”
The media released the news without any verification. Then, the story took a life of its own, spreading on the Internet, through blogs and people’s feedback.
The situation developed although a professor expressed his opinion without much thought and the media reported on it without proper consideration.
In fact, the inconsiderate reaction repeated and magnified in the media may be a sign distinguishing the society’s advancement from backwardness, refinement and crudeness.
More than anything else, the professor should not have spoken out when the facts were uncertain. It was crude of the police, too, to have relayed his remarks without qualification. And the press, the group to which I belong, reported the news without telling head from tail. I must confess that I, too, did not consider the seriousness or repercussions of the matter. I am ashamed and sorry.
One person’s irresponsible remarks ended up disturbing 50 million people. It is fortunate, however, that the truth was revealed in 38 hours.
Watching the incident of the cell phone battery explosion, I also came to think about the BBK case, which has recently shaken the political climate of the presidential election.
Yesterday, prosecutors announced the result of the investigation in which dozens of prosecutors participated.
Presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party has said, to date, “I have nothing to do with BBK, and if any, I will take responsibility for that even after I have become president.” Therefore if the investigation revealed his involvement in the alleged stock price manipulation or actual ownership of BBK, candidate Lee would have been responsible for that. Above all, voters are unlikely to tolerate him.
But now we know that the whole thing was a fraud perpetrated by his Korean-American former business partner, Kim Kyung-joon.
The people have been made fools by this. And what responsibility will the political circles, particularly the United New Democratic Party, take for doggedly turning the eyes and ears of the people to the BBK scandal, when the people here have enough difficulty making a living?
What kind of answer will the politicians give to the critical question, “Did you use Kim Kyung-jun, this time, after having taken advantage of Kim Dae-up’s groundless accusations against candidate Lee Hoi-chang in 2002?”
All the people are curious about the answer, not just me.
Courts in the United States can issue a gag order to keep people involved in a case from carelessly discussing it. Even an obvious lie confuses the listeners once it is talked about and reported on by the media. Even if the truth is discovered later, suspicions remain.
It is even more so if someone contends that there is a conspiracy. The alleged cell phone battery explosion and BBK fraud case have given us food for thought: How healthy is Korean society?

*The writer is the senior city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Chong-hyuk
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