Tears for whom: Kim or themselves?

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Tears for whom: Kim or themselves?

A photograph featured in Life magazine left a lasting impression. In 1945, the day after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, Graham Jackson, an African-American former naval officer, played “Going Home” on his accordion. The tearful musician performed in front of a town hall as people gathered together to mourn. He was making every effort to suppress his feelings, but tears still fell from his eyes. His tight lips showed the sincerity of his grief. This photograph captures the painful feeling of the musician as he mourns the death of the president.

But it is not just suppressed grief that is moving. Sometimes sorrow can only be expressed by passionately venting. Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote about the explicit expression of grief in “The Persians.”

In the play, one of the first tragedies, Aeschylus depicts the pain that Persian King Xerxes experienced. The backdrop is the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. King Xerxes situated his camp at a high point overlooking the sea to enjoy the spectacle of his mighty Persian fleet defeating the vulnerable Greek ships.

However, the Persian fleets could not properly maneuver in the narrow Strait of Salamis and became a target of the swift Greek galley boats. It was the first large-scale sea battle recorded in history. Greece lost only 40 boats while over 300 Persian warships sank.

King Xerxes was completely agonized by the unexpected spectacle and cried, tearing his clothes apart. His cry was very dramatic. “Ototototoi!” The primitive cry was an expression of his agony and shock. He could do nothing but wail like an animal as he watched his fleet being destroyed.

As I watched the North Korean residents weeping upon the death of their leader, I was reminded of these two scenes and thought about the face of true sorrow.

After all, Xerxes’ waling seems rather exaggerated. It may be been dramatically distorted by the writer to maximize the impact. Aeschylus had participated in the Battle of Salamis personally on the Greek side, and the defeat of Xerxes meant a triumph of justice.

In a similar way, the crying and waling of the North Koreans didn’t feel sincere. It seems that they are expressing their feelings so dramatically because it was in their interest, or the person who helped them had disappeared. Maybe they are crying out of sympathy toward themselves at someone else’s funeral.

The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo

by Lee Hoon-beom
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