[Letter to the editor]Remembering another senseless crime
On Feb. 10, soon after the Lunar New Year, Sungnyemun, Korea’s National Treasure No. 1 caught fire, with flames leaping out from its ancient wooden beams on live television, shocking the population who watched helplessly as precious history and national pride burned and collapsed to the ground. Almost immediately, the nation was in collective mourning over the shameful loss of the 610-year-old structure, which soon turned to indignation and anger.
Soon afterward, a 69-year-old man with a history of arson, known as “Chae,”was thrust into public view by the police; he was said to be the only one who set the blaze, and was later led through a staged crime reenactment worthy of “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” Regardless of the cause, Koreans are enraged that the landmark is in ashes.
In times of national tragedy, there are always those who seek to exploit public fear and insecurity to achieve goals that are not readily apparent. As some in Korea have made comparisons between America’s horrific 9/11 tragedy and the loss of Korea’s precious national landmark, it behooves all who clamor for greater government protection ― possibly at the expense of civil liberties and due process ― to review how one fiery event changed history forever: the Reichstag Fire of 1933.
As in Seoul, a barely coherent man with a checkered past wandered the streets of the German capital with a grudge against the system and allegedly set fire to a beautiful historic structure to seek revenge. An ambitious right-of-center politician promising sweeping changes to revive the battered economy and wounded national pride saw an opportunity and made his move (launching Nazi Germany). It may be wisefor Koreans to review the circumstances of the tragic Reichstag fire for its eerie similarity to the loss of the precious Sungnyemun, for how the desire to avenge such a senseless crime may be exploited by the powerful for unforeseen ends.
Collin Baber, Las Vegas, Nevada
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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