[Viewpoint]Training the nation
The Beijing Olympics are a turning point in the history of China, an event that will separate the China of today from the China of yesterday.
The splendid opening ceremony exemplified the Chinese leaders’ expression of their intent: that the country wants to communicate with the world with the language and grammar of China.
It was China’s longtime dream to interpret the world in a Chinese way. The rest of the world is now having to respond as these changes unfold.
After his visit to China, President Lee Myung-bak said, “It is unfortunate that Koreans are split and confront each other, while 1.3 billion Chinese are united.”
His statement is justified to some extent. The world is changing but the government, the opposition parties, companies and civic groups have failed to change with the times.
The liberal forces and opposition parties have lost the opportunity to reflect on the past 10 years in the aftermath of the candlelight vigils.
Companies have failed to learn the discipline of having “an appropriate desire,” and civic groups have failed to set forth a set of new self-regulations.
And yet, the current situation has not really been caused by the meticulous planning of people who do not want to recognize the Lee administration.
The administration, which has the arrogance of making the wrong moves even though it knows better, is more responsible for the current conflicts in this country.
Several events that took place on Liberation Day on Aug.15 created an opportunity out of the crisis.
Many commemoration events were planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the nation’s foundation, and society is undergoing a series of transformations that rewrite Korea’s modern history and restore the power of the conservatives.
What we need now is the courage to put ourselves under the surgeon’s knife and to adopt the virtue of self-restraint.
If not, this administration will repeat the failure of the last administration, which believed that it was the only one capable of interpreting and giving meaning to history.
An attractive country is a product of its capabilities, and the capabilities do not come from determination and mental power. They are only available after disciplining the body.
In Confucianism, cleansing and training the body is emphasized because what a body learns lasts for a long time. With good posture comes the ability to exude trust and consistency, and the ability to predict what might happen in the future.
The heroes of the Beijing Olympics confessed that the experience of winning was exceptionally tough, a confession that came straight from the heart.
That is why we have been so emotionally touched by their victories.
How can we train the body of a nation? The first step is strengthening security by uniting sovereignty, history and territory with our sense of self.
We should start by recovering our sense of nationhood and building basic physical strength.
Unknowingly, we have interpreted issues on our own amid waves of globalization, which has caused our academic and political capabilities to submit to those stronger than ourselves.
What is unique to Koreans has been criticized as groundless and narrow-minded nationalism.
But as long as we fail to communicate and spread our sense of Korea, we have a little room to secure ourselves.
So we must move beyond practicality and pragmatism. Borrowing from the Chinese philosopher Mo-tzu, we must set forth “the three standards of judgment.” According to the Chinese philosopher, our plan should be judged by the deeds of ancient kings. Its validity should be judged by people’s reality and its applicability should be judged by its effect on the state and the people.
Pragmatism is not a spirit of “making anything possible.” It requires highly organized strategic thinking, a sense of balance and the desire to seek wisdom from history. Aiming at pragmatism is like walking a tightrope a high altitude.
After the Beijing Olympics, East Asia will become an arena of competition.
The year 2012 will be the first critical juncture. Armed with the spirit of the new era, the sixth generation leaders will take power in China.
Marking the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, North Korea will also seek a transition.
New administrations will also take power in South Korea and the United States.
It will be a whole new ballgame.
Our Olympic heroes have already begun training their bodies for the 2012 London Olympics. Now, what is the aim of this nation’s body training for 2012?
There is no magic trick. Koreans must learn to focus and be determined in the post-Liberation Day celebrations.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Sungkyunkwan University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hee-ok