Black Ribbons

Today was the national mourning day for President Roh Moo-Hyun.  Many classes stopped their lessons to watch some of the memorial services on t.v.  Many of the teachers were wearing black ribbons pinned to their shirts.

Y was actually in tears much of the day.  She explained that for Korea, President Roh was kind of like Obama, and that after he got defeated, all his good work was being taken away.  Kind of insensitively, I asked her why Koreans weren’t angry at him for taking his own life and not keeping alive to keep fighting for them.  I told her I didn’t understand the Asian propensity for suicide.  She explained that he made a mistake and he couldn’t live with letting everybody down.  Suicide shows he is a person of principle and conscience.  I can understand this line of reasoning, but my logic tells me that when you’re dead your principles don’t mean much.

I guess in a way, he kind of martyred himself.  The public feel like the current administration railroaded him and mentally tortured him.  And his suicide and lack of due process has galvanized the left like nothing he could have done were he still living.  The current administration is pretty frightened right now.  They even advised the riot police to wear black ribbons as well.

So it’s going to be an interesting year in Korea.  Just like the memorial service, the official one being overshadowed by the attendance at the unofficial one, the left will be creating a parallel counter presence for everything the current administration does.

Y asks me, “Aren’t you afraid being here as a foreigner?”  I am confused, and she clarifies by mentioning the N. Korean missile testing and the current political unrest.  I tell her no, not at all.  My views are that N. Korea can not really afford to do anything.  Reunification will never happen because S. Korea is too selfish to pay for it.  And there won’t be any bloodshed because everyone enjoys their standard of living too much.

Hopefully, I am right.  But Monday night a former student of Y’s lamented over drink how he can’t find work despite graduating from college.  So maybe I am wrong.  I think when people are out of work in Asia, they take it much more personally than they do in the west.  In my sheltered life in my officetel, nothing of the outside world really touches me anyway.  It’s only school where I even know about these things.

Women’s rights, adoption reform, the threat of an end to a fifty plus year old peace treaty, and potential political unrest.  These ARE interesting times to be in Korea.

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