[Letters] Wearing a very strange-looking mask in publicA face represents the character of a person. The face contains personality, emotions and history. The face is located at the front side of the upper body and is unique for each individual. So we as a society distinguish different people by their faces. That’s why official identifications like passports, driver’s licenses and resident identity cards contain a photo with the face of the cardholder.
We make various judgments by looking at the face. First, we can figure out the gender and age of the person whose face it is. Do I know that person? Do I feel attracted to them? I am a dentist, and I pursue the aesthetic appreciation of human faces. My main area of studies is the “smile,” the core of facial beauty. So when I am out among crowds, I survey the faces of different people and become busy analyzing beautiful smiles on passersby.
However, I often become completely frightened on the street when I happen upon people in masks. These are not just being worn by those who may need to cover their mouths and noses for medical reasons or to filter out pollution. They are wearing a very strange-looking mask that completely covers their entire face.
This type of mask was first introduced five or six years ago. At first, some people used it to block ultraviolet rays when they go out hiking or take a walk. But this mask has proliferated and is now widespread in downtown streets, and we often find people wearing the mask even when they are on a bus.
Intuitively, when you see someone with covered face, you are reminded of a thief or a robber. I heard that a Korean-American was expelled from a country club in Los Angeles when the golfer was playing a round wearing a mask. In public places, you can cover up all other parts of the body but need to leave the face uncovered. It is a basic etiquette to show your face to people around you.
Last year, France banned the Islamic full body veil, or burqa, in public. Maybe, we need to legislate a ban on full-face masks in public to protect the right to pursue aesthetic happiness for the majority of citizens and to save Korea’s reputation.
by Dong Jin-keun Professor at the school of dentistry of Wonkwang University