Gen. MacArthur vs. Gangnam style
I know several people who have tried to endure heat waves with fans but caved in and bought air-conditioners in the end. They said they knew the heat would go away in a few weeks, but they had given up fighting. For me, this summer will be remembered as the first season of sunglasses. I purchased my first pair before leaving for vacation.
But after wearing them a few times in the sun during vacation, I haven’t been able to put them on very frequently. Some coworkers wear sunglasses during their commutes, but I am reluctant to take my sunglasses out. Perhaps I subconsciously associate them with beaches and vacations. Also, I am afraid of being seen as bossy or authoritarian. I don’t want to look like the gangsters in films. So my sunglasses hardly get a chance to get out of the case.
To many Koreans, Gen. Douglas MacArthur may be the first person they associate with sunglasses. He is well known for his dark aviators and pipe. When former President Park Chung Hee started the May 16 military coup in 1961, sunglasses were a crucial prop. The next morning, he was standing between Park Jong-gyu and Cha Ji-cheol at the plaza in front of Seoul City Hall donning dark shades.
When you wear sunglasses, the movement of eyes cannot be seen, so people can’t figure out where you are looking. When the entire world was curious what was going on inside, the sunglasses Park was wearing had a symbolic meaning. In Korea, sunglasses have come to symbolize secrecy and authority.
The former chief of the National Intelligence Service, Kim Man-bok, exposed the “Sunglass Man,” a secret agent who resolved a kidnapping case in Afghanistan in 2007 and was condemned for failing to keep confidentiality. When Kim Jong-il was alive, he was often seen wearing sunglasses.
However, it may be outdated to be reminded of authority or secrecy when wearing sunglasses. Doctors recommend wearing them for vision. Koreans are not used to wearing sunglasses and hats in the sun, and the exposure to the ultraviolet rays increases the risk of cataracts. According to statistics on major surgeries by the National Health Insurance Corporation, many cataract surgeries are performed in Korea. In 2010, 290,000 cataract patients had operations.
To the younger generation, sunglasses have no complicated connotations. They are nothing more than a fashion statement. When singer Psy performs his latest hit “Gangnam Style,” his sunglasses project anti-authoritarianism and energy. After all, I am not “Gangnam style,” but more of an outdated old man.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun