[Viewpoint] Korea’s ‘mob’ republicAn obsession with blood purity lowers the quality of a race. Descendants from so-called “pure-blood” lines are prone to antisocial disorders like egocentrism and narcissism, and they can lack adaptability and resilience to their external environments and the challenges they produce. Crossbreeds, on the other hand, born of a blending of different heritages, undergo the painful yet inescapable need to find their own identities and pick up strength and wisdom in the process.
A community of the same blood often resists coexistence with other lineages and, as a result, is closed and introverted. But the various enigmas of human lives, and the complicated social dynamics that bring variety and learning, isn’t found in a closed system.
There are over 120,000 children from 180,000 mixed-race families living across Korea. We cannot speak of having an open and symbiotic society without accepting and familiarizing ourselves with the idea of a hybrid culture and understanding, interacting and supporting people of different ethnicities and cultures. What an embarrassment if we do not embrace diversity on our own soil at a time when young people all around the world are singing and dancing to the tunes of Korean pop artistes.
Our society, which has long prided itself on blood purity, is, in fact, mixed with strains of foreign genes. Heo Hwang-ok, the mother of Heo lineage, was an Indian tribal princess who came to the Garak Dynasty and wedded King Suro. Queen Noguk, wife of King Gongmin of the Goryeo Dynasty, was a Mongol princess. They are our first ancestors and they stood for interracial marriage, mixed-race families and crossbreeding of cultures.
The kind of closed nationalism that obsesses over pure blood exiles women and other foreigners to social peripheries. It locks the society away from the rest of the world, and produces a kind of national self-exile. The Bible’s instruction to love aliens should not be applied as an ethic for individuals to practice, but should be a universal obligation for everyone living on this earth, where many regions are bathed in blood because of ethnic and religious conflicts.
Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela saw the wisdom of overcoming exclusion and discrimination and preached the way to peace. Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic, champions of blood purity, developed a kind of brutal nationalism and committed the deepest kind of crimes against humanity.
Shadows of racism darken this nation too as long as young wives from Vietnam are battered and killed by their Korean husbands and foreigners are imported to do our dirty and dangerous jobs live in humiliation and resentment.
The wisdom of a symbiotic society where all the members of the community seek a common goodness through tolerance and harmony past the stage of universality (as preached by Kant and Hegel) and individualism (as envisioned by Heidegger and Sartre) to discover enlightenment with Asian philosophies on wider inter-relations.
A society that looks at someone’s birthplace and school background when hiring public servants cannot be deemed fair. How many companies actually recruit people purely based on competence and qualification and unbiased by school, family and blood associations? A certain public enterprise reportedly hires its new staff from the same schools its executives attended. That workplace is like one big school reunion financed by public taxes.
The career success of public officials and political candidates is primarily based on their regional voting base. Politicians recklessly promise subsidized college fees and free meals for students just to keep their little bands of voters wrapped around them. The military fights for its power bases regardless of why we suffered such tragedies as the sinking of the Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island. Local government leaders, legislators and activists take to the streets for angry protests, but really all they’re doing is promoting themselves.
They are the faces of our selfish “mob” republic.
Pursuit of diversity may not be the answer to all our problems. We cannot completely ignore the origin of other people or their regional roots. But we must pay heed to the teaching of symbiotic ethics and wisdom of inter-relations to cure our society’s obsession with blood purity and mob culture.
*The writer is a partner at Hwang Mok Park, P.C. and the former head of the Seoul Central District Court.
By Lee Woo-keun
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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