An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?

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An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?


One day, I went to a department store in downtown Seoul and mistakenly entered the garage for the luxury hall. A garage attendant stopped my car and asked, “Are you visiting the luxury hall?” He must have thought that my old domestic car didn’t belong there. Feeling a sudden surge of anger and embarrassment, I said, “Yes, I am shopping here!” and parked my car among the shiny imports. But I regretted my decision when I had to pay 10,000 won ($9.25) for parking. “If I backed off, I could have bought fried chicken for my kids,” I thought.

A few days ago, a corporate executive showed me a text message he got from his wife. She reminded him to take whatever the restaurant serves and to always act prudently. “Always think about your wife and children,” she said. Another executive told me a story. When he was having lunch with coworkers, one of them got a dish he didn’t order. But people advised him to just eat whatever he was served.

Lately, big corporations have similar tales since a Posco executive’s ramen incident. (He made a fuss on an airplane about the ramen he was served, which was later widely publicized, costing him his job.)

As we are not living alone, we have to pay the price for mistakes. The 10,000 won I paid to park in the luxury hall was actually not a lot. Nowadays, if you throw a fit, you can be ruined. The executive who made a fuss over instant noodles had to resign. A confectionery company chairman punched a hotel manager, and customers canceled orders. The company had to shut down, and the innocent workers lost their jobs. A salesman at Namyang Dairy Products had to quit when his harsh phone conversation with a franchise owner spread on a social network. The company is under investigation for forcing dealers to buy certain products, so it must have been company culture. These cases evoked public outrage as they illustrate the high-handed attitude of those in power.

But is it fair to punish the abuser by taking away the job? The public’s retaliation for the “wrongdoer with power” is incredibly harsh. While we are thrilled by the severe punishments given to those who abuse their power and positions, the consequence in the offline world is the spread of panic and distrust like the Orwellian world. I even want to revive the Code of Hammurabi, the Babylonian law with scaled punishments like “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The law was made in ancient times ruled by extreme retaliation and rage. The entire family of an accused attacker could be killed in retaliation for an assault. Considering today’s situation, the Code of Hammurabi seems far more advanced. After all, we cannot even expect the tolerance of Jesus who said, “Love your enemies.”

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

by Yang Sunny
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