[Campus commntary]A national shameA national shame
Seeing Sungnyemun burn and collapse, many Koreans felt as if their hearts were being torn apart. I saw tears welling up in my tough friend’s eyes when he heard. Even people abroad expressed concern.
The incident was broadcast all over the world. Our national pride suffered greatly as the fire consumed our national treasure, which embodies the spirit of the Korean people.
This disaster was not an accident, but a crime. A repeat arsonist, who held no respect for the treasure, set it on fire. He did not know the value of the artifact. But there were plenty of others who were worse. They had no knowledge about the site, such as its proper name.
A few days ago, I heard a young woman say she did not know Namdaemun, the Great Southern Gate, and Sungnyemun were the same thing. Sungnyemun is the official name for Namdaemun. Why were people so unconcerned about our national treasure?
There are many more cultural heritage items around us, but people have no concerns about protecting them. Unfortunately, too many people have no idea how to appreciate the artifacts. We should do something before it becomes a serious problem.
Not long ago, a student set fire to a field of reeds right next to Suwon Hwaseong, a traditional fortress, to find her lost cell phone. This shows how ignorant people are of the importance of our heritage.
Several years ago, the history of Korea became an optional subject to study in high school. So many high school students choose other, easier subjects in its place. In college, too few students enroll in history courses because it does not really help them get employed.
This systemic error should be corrected.
We have to realize its seriousness. Through times of desolation, Sungnyemun stood as a wellspring of our history and culture. This historic relic did not deserve to be treated like this. We should be ashamed before our ancestors.
I see many students feeling sorry for this disaster although some didn’t know what Sungnyemun was. We must remember: Sungnyemun was not a mere gate. It had been with us more than 600 years and now it is gone forever.
What’s sadder is that officials from the state bureau of cultural relics and the fire department failed to prevent this calamity.
Other countries, like Japan or England, preserve their national treasures very well. Not just theirs; they even try to take care of relics from other cultures. Some have said sarcastically that if Sungnyemun was in Japan, it never would have burned down.
Of course, Sungnyemun will be rebuilt, but its authenticity is gone.
I hope this kind of catastrophe never happens again.