Sending support to MyanmarPARK JIN-SEOK
The author is a national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Round balloons of various colors were surrounding a ball of fire. Hundreds of needles from the ground had sharp edges as if they were fighting the beings of the sky. The photo of Bagan overwhelmed me with the sunset, hot air balloons, thousands of Buddhas and 1,000 pagodas.
I was determined to visit Myanmar and see it for myself, but I had to give up. The country that houses the ancient site of Bagan was difficult to visit until the late 2000s. Suffering from a military dictatorship, there were many authoritarian factors hindering travel. I researched ways to fly there, which was practically the only way, but the expensive fare from a lack of demand made me give up.
Until I saw the magnificent picture of Bagan, Myanmar was not a country I was interested in. The only image defining the country was the Aung San terror attack on South Korean government officials in 1983, which planted hatred and fear over North Korea when I was young. To me, “Burma” and “Rangoon” were more familiar names than Myanmar and Yangon. Later, I learned that Myanmar was a big country six times larger than South Korea and rich in natural resources. It is also a country with great potential, so young that its average age is under 30.
As time went by, a democratic government, albeit immature, was established in Myanmar. Land borders opened and flights were added, but I didn’t have a chance to visit. In the meantime, my admiration for Bagan withered.
A coup occurred there. Millions of people risking their lives and protesting on the streets reflected a serious reality unlike the fantastic scenery of Bagan. Democracy is still something they have to exchange with blood. I was reminded of Korean decades ago.
The people of Myanmar are asking countries around the world for help. While we cannot provide all the solutions, I hope each of us can send at least a bottle of water to relieve them. I send my support with my writing as I pray to see the sunset in Bagan after Myanmar defeats the coup and wins democracy.