[Viewpoint] A terror on young soulsSept. 9 was the last day of Ramadan, and Sept. 11 marked the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar without a leap month, so the dates of Ramadan vary every year in the solar calendar. This year, Ramadan was from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9 in the Gregorian calendar.
To Muslims, Ramadan is an auspicious month during which the Angel Gabriel revealed the first verses of the Koran to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Ramadan is a period of obligatory fasting from sunrise to sunset every day. Muslims also refrain from smoking, drinking and sexual relations. The 27th night of Ramadan is called Laylat al-Qadr, the night of decrees, and Muslim believers pray all night.
The end of Ramadan is followed by Eid ul-Fitr, a three-day festivity of eating and drinking. However, this year, the Islamic holiday coincides with the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. While some are enjoying relaxation and feasting after a month of fasting and abstinence, others are remembering the victims of the fearful attacks.
On Laylat al-Qadr, the 27th night of Ramadan, I went to see the first Arabic play produced in Korea. It was titled “The King is the King.” It is an adaptation of a political satire by Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous. Published in 1977, The King is the King is based on “The Sleeper and the Waker,” the tale of the 152nd night in “The Arabian Nights.”
The original play is about Caliph Harun al-Rashid of Baghdad and Abu Izza, a drunkard from the street. Caliph al-Rashid meets Abu Izza while wandering around the streets incognito to observe his subjects. The caliph gives Abu Izza a chance to act as the king. However, after spending one night in the king’s bedroom, Abu Izza realizes that being a king is not something he desired and he returns to the street without any regrets.
However, the Korean production contains irony and humor, and the fake king displays more dignity and authority than the real one. Commanding the ministers majestically, Abu Izza acts more real and regal than Harun al-Rashid. It might look like the fake king is pushing out the real king, but in fact, the play gives the ironic and sarcastic message that there is no real or fake in power, and what matters is who has the symbol of power, such as the crown, the robe or the throne. The line that encapsulates the message in one sentence is: “Give me the crown and the robe, I will make you a king.”
For the last week, the nepotism scandal surrounding the daughter of former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan stirred Korean society. Behind the fury is not just the matter of fairness and justice. People are feeling beyond anger, almost despair, over the absurd and devastating reality.
Once someone is given a crown, a robe or an armband and ascends to a post, he will not only make sure he stays in the position but will also ensure that his family and friends rise to power. We say that a position makes a person, but now, a position makes more positions.
Islamic believers have to endure thirst and hunger during the month of Ramadan. However, the young men and women in this country have been thirsty and hungry for decent jobs far more desperately than the Muslims during fasting. At least, the Muslims are rewarded with a great feast for their thirst and hunger during Eid ul-Fitr after Ramadan.
Yet, a countless number of young Koreans are still thirsty and hungry for decent jobs. A man in a high position used his power to slyly create a post for his daughter, and the shameless abuse of power infuriated the youngsters in the country.
At least to them, the scandal was a merciless terror on the young souls who have never been given a chance to bloom, perhaps more frightening than the Sept. 11 attacks.
At the same time, I discovered one of the true reasons why a play of sarcasm and satire is so challenging in Korea. Reality is so dishonorable, shameless and sly that the audience is not going to be touched by most satire or sarcasm.
*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Chung Jin-hong