London, a city of contrast

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London, a city of contrast


Five days from today on Friday, the Olympics will kick off in London until Aug. 12. It is the perfect opportunity to learn about the British capital. London is full of charms that attract various people from around the world, from the wealthiest few to leftist activists.

London is an international city of multicultural communities to which foreigners constantly move and visit. Nearly 58 percent of the eight million living in London are Caucasians from the United Kingdom. More than 30 percent are from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, and 10 percent are Caucasians from other areas. Englishman Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, is one-quarter Indian by ethnicity. Recently, some of the wealthiest people from Russia, India, China and the Middle East have moved to London. Eight of the top 10 richest people in Great Britain are foreigners, according to a Sunday Times’ report in May.

Seven of the 20 English Premier League teams are owned by Brits, while nine are owned by foreigners and four are co-owned by Brits and foreigners. A generous tax system for the wealthy, competitive education, convenient transportation, a variety in shopping and entertainment and pleasant parks make London an attractive place for the rich and the famous around the world. And this charming city is the engine that drives the British economy.

Lakshmi Mittal, an Indian steel magnate and the richest man in the United Kingdom, lives in the most expensive residence in the world. His luxurious mansion is located near Kensington Palace, where Prince Charles and Princess Diana had lived in the early days of their marriage. Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Garden have beautiful green lawns and trails. Anyone can take a stroll in the garden for free, and the extensive public facilities may be closing the psychological gap between the rich and the poor.

On the contrary, London is a sanctum of leftist ideals. Karl Marx spent half of his life there and is buried in Highgate Cemetery in northern London. When I visited London for the first time in December 1995, I paid a visit to his tomb in the rain. Someone had left a note in front of his tombstone: “It’s time to call Marx.” Surprisingly, the note was signed by “workers” in Korean. The tomb has become a popular tourist destination, and countless visitors coming to London for the Olympics will visit. Whether they worship or scorn the revolutionary socialist, they will be faced with a historical figure. London is a worthy place to visit as you can see the tomb of Karl Marx, who had resented the world and lived in extreme poverty. London truly is a city of contrast.

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

by Chae In-taek

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