[Viewpoint]Show and tell

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[Viewpoint]Show and tell

Is there any other living creature like a human, who gets wildly excited over a show?
Of course, no one wants to live in a drab and boring world. Therefore, humans from prehistoric times to the present have created shows to entertain people. It is human nature to spend time having fun. In turn, the quality of the show has ceaselessly improved.
The meaning of a show has evolved from a primitive dance to such things as a play, musical, drama or film. In brief, a show today is a combination of fictions.
Paradoxically, a collection of false fictions has the power to make lots of people smile and cry. Everyone has probably experienced at least one time in their life when they were more persuaded by a well-made film than any rhetoric backed by statistics and rationale.
That’s not even limited to plays and films. A politician can create his own show with an impressive message and create a sensation. However, to do so, the show should be prepared meticulously.
King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty is regarded as the best showman in Korea’s history. His trip to the Hwaseong Haenggung in Suwon, the capital of Gyeonggi Province, created an unprecedented spectacular scene.
The big show happened on a spot now called “slow-paced hill.” It was the highlight of the king’s visit to the Hwaseong fortress. Royal carriages marched in a parade at a snail’s pace along the hill, and the name of the hill originated from this story.
The geographical features in those days are not easily discerned due to dense buildings there now.
When King Jeongjo passed along the low-lying hills, the chance to see such a spectacular scene was a can’t-miss occasion. After seeing a myriad of people around him, he made the most of it, like a good politician. He wanted a firm foundation of public support to fortify his royal authority. He shed tears full of filial devotion in the direction of Hwasan, the burial place of Prince Sado (1735-1762). The prince had been locked in a rice chest and starved by royal command.
The people lined up on both sides of the road must have been deeply moved by the king’s dramatic action. King Jeongjo was a wise ruler with a thorough grasp of verbal marketing in the days before the birth of the mass media.
We can imagine how the people felt after seeing their king come down from his sedan chair and bow with tears in his eyes.
There is a theory ― in Confucianism-dominated societies, anyway ― that obedience to one’s parents leads to allegiance to one’s country. After the king’s display of devotion to his father, all the people became wholeheartedly committed to serving the king. It was nearly impossible for powerful courtiers to dare to change sides because they could see the king’s public popularity. King Jeongjo’s seat on the throne was backed by only a few people, and he wanted to strengthen his shaky power. Thus, the king continued his big show on all 66 trips he took to the Hwaseong Fortress. His visits were costly, as hundreds of thousands of people and horses were mobilized for each march. However, the show gave the king a huge boost to silence potentially hostile influences.
President Roh Moo-hyun pooh-poohed the value of a show, saying, “Persuading the people with images or shows is a sacrilegious practice by the supreme ruler of a nation.” He also asserted, “If a president visits a place for show, his administration becomes exhibitionist. The president woukd be acting like an imperial king.”
President Roh benefited from a well-made campaign ad called “Roh’s tears.” Ironically, however, he refused to accept the socio-political value of a show during his term as president.
He also told the truth, saying, “I will not go to the United States just for a photo-op.” However, his honesty made people worry about national security more than they did under other rulers who did go to the States for just a photo-op.
People really yearn for a leader who will deliver a heartfelt message crafted to improve the nation’s security. It should be delivered via the form of a dramatic show, even if it’s nothing more than a photo-op.
In this regard, people are really concerned to see President-elect Lee instantly translate his honesty into actions. Right after he was elected president, he twice visited alumni events of a university that gave him systematic support during his campaign. However, most people think the president expressed his gratitude excessively. What if he visited an alumni meeting hosted by Korea National Open University and said, “What gave me enthusiasm throughout my life was my ceaseless desire to learn, even though I led a busy life.”
The slogan of an advertisement by a cell phone company, “Do the show!” is a sign of the times.
Sometimes, people are pleased with just a well-made political show.

*The writer is a representative of the Meerae Imagination Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Hong Sa-jong
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