Love cannot be locked away

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Love cannot be locked away

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I recently went to Mount Namsan and was pleasantly surprised to see it filled with foreign tourists. They got off the tour buses, and the cable cars constantly brought them to the top of the mountain. But the line didn’t get any shorter. I felt I was a foreigner there.

Last year, the city of Seoul surveyed foreign visitors, and the N Seoul Tower on Mount Namsan was picked as the best tourist attraction. Among the 1,849 respondents, 295 said the N Seoul Tower was their favorite.

The observatory offers a breathtaking view of the city. Another reason for its popularity is that many couples place “love locks” (also known as “love padlocks”) and kiss, looking out over Seoul.

The love locks have become a tradition. You have to see it to believe it. The fences around the N Seoul Tower are covered with all sorts of padlocks, and it is hard to find an empty spot. A giant tree of locks has been created as well.

The names and comments on the locks suggest that people from all over the world have left their marks. There are more locks by foreigners than Koreans. The trend began in 2006.

The padlocks of love are not just a trend in Seoul. The love locks are affixed in Tokyo, Budapest, Italy and China. Pont des Arts over the Seine in Paris has all sorts of padlocks on the railings. I could find a few with Korean writing.

Couples visiting Paris affix a lock on the fence and throw a key down the Seine, wishing their love to last forever. The city of Paris tried to remove the locks to keep the bridge safe and maintain the original architectural beauty, but the efforts were in vain.

The act of affixing a lock and wishing for eternal love is romantic, but that does not make love last forever. Just as love and passion change over time, the locks will become rusty.

Ruining the landscape and environment by the impulse of emotion may be selfish.

And I am not the only one to think so unromantically and coldly. A few days ago, French writer Agnes Poirier contributed a similar view on the International Herald Tribune. “The idea that you can lock two people’s love once and for all, and toss the key, is a puerile fantasy.”

So the custom may as well be an insult on true love, and she asks people to save Paris from the game of locking love. “Embrace its fragility, wish your beloved to be free,” she wrote. Love is not a prison where you lock one another up.

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

by Bae Myung-bok

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