[Viewpoint] Turn the other cheek

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[Viewpoint] Turn the other cheek

How would you react if someone spits in your face? Perhaps you would give one of the following responses: First, you look up helplessly at the spitter’s face; second, you lose your temper and launch into an abusive tirade; third, you give the miscreant a sound thrashing; fourth, you spit back; or fifth, you wipe the spit off your face without saying a word.

However, the responses presented in the “Summary of the Eighteen Histories” compiled under the Chinese title “Shibashilue” are somewhat different. “Leave the spit in your face until it dries,” reads one of them.

The basic idea is that if you leave the spit to dry where it lands on your face it will prevent the quarrel from becoming more serious.

In the Tang Dynasty, Lou Shide was a virtuous official who gained public support during the reign of the domineering Empress Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history.

One day, when his brother was appointed to the position of provincial governor, Lou Shide asked, “It is so obvious that people will be jealous or slander us behind our backs, as both you and I are on the promotional track and bask in royal favor. So how do you think we should react to avoid jealousy, hatred and backbiting?”

His brother responded, “Even if someone spat at me, I would wipe the spit off my face without feeling hurt or angry. I will treat people in a modest manner at all times, I will never make you feel angry or give you a hard time.”

After hearing his brother’s answer, Lou Shide became concerned and pointed out his sibling’s mistake.

“It actually worries me. If someone spat at you, it means that he is really angry with you. So if you wipe off the spit without saying a word, the other person will become angrier. The best way is not to wipe off the spit and wait until it dries.”

When Cho Kab-je, the editor of the Monthly Chosun, published a biography of former President Park Chung Hee under the title “Spit on My Tomb” some years ago, we recall that the outspoken critic Chin Jung-kwon famously commented, “I will spit on your tomb.”

In fact, spitting at each other and finger pointing is prevalent everywhere these days. Recently, spitting at each other was everywhere amid the so-called offensive and defensive battles surrounding the compilation of a list of names of people who were apparently pro-Japanese.

However, we should stop spitting and deliberately refrain from wiping spit off our faces even if it leaves a mark on your face and you are disgusted by the other person’s behavior.

As shown, just leave it until it dries. Patience may be the only way to end the long and exhausting controversy. After all, enduring pain and uncomfortable scenes is a highly effective means of diffusing tension.

The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of “Gyeongsul Gukchi,” meaning the humiliation of the nation in 1910; the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950 Korean War; the 50th anniversary of the 4.19 Revolution in 1960; and the 30th anniversary of the 5.18 Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.

Ahead of the start of a new monumental year, we should be able to put the final touches on our plans and take them to a higher plane. However, we are still busy spitting at each other and wallowing in controversy and offensive and defensive battles, which only serve to make us feel ashamed and hopeless.

We are so fed up that other countries still have misconceptions about this country, while it is interesting to see that the nation is still trapped firmly in that past and fails to move toward a better future.

Though 64 years have passed since Korea became an independent nation once again after Japan was forced to leave at the end of World War II, we are still caught in a one-dimensional controversy about who should be labeled as pro-Japanese. It is high time we open the doors to a better future.


*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong
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