Go to contents

[Opinion] What Comes after Despair

Posted October. 02, 2002 22:57,   


“It was worse than death, as bitter as you can imagine. I could just have died if I had tried,” wrote Samacheon, a scholar and government official during the Han era in ancient China who was sent away and put in misery. He was punished for a grave crime – telling his majesty of the truth. Samacheon lived on, however, because he had a plan for something bigger than his life. And the result is “Sagi,” one of the world’s greatest history books. The book is a victory for his sprit that transcended such humiliation and despair into a great human work.

▷Many of leading figures in our times are people who have fallen deep down to despair to rise again. Lee Ju-il, respected comedian who just passed away last summer of lung cancer, first became well known for his joke “I will show you something,” a phrase that came out of desperation - he really wanted to show something but he did not know how. If he had not gone through years of bitter experience, he could not have made up the joke that appealed to virtually every Korean in the country. Experiencing darkest days of life and feeling like giving up, you suddenly decide to fight with your teeth instead. Then you find sometime later that your despair has gone. It’s irony of despair.

▷It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. As Kierkegaard once said “Despair is a disease that leads you to death,” it wields formidable power of destruction. “I was an optimistic boy, but the day my father was sentenced to death, everything changed for me,” said in court Kim Hong-gul, President Kim’s youngest son who served his term in jail for taking briery and influence peddling. Hong-gul’s failure, which broke heart of the aged president, was a result of despair he experienced in early years. Yet, Park Jin-shik, who is dying of a rare disease that petrifies his body, said in his book that despair is another name of hope. There is always a future down the road for those thinking that they are at the end of the road. People just give up although there is a way out. People are deceived more by despair than by hope.

▷ U.S. business magazine Wall Street Journal recently wrote that North Korea’s Shinuiju plan came out of Kim Jong-il’s desperation. Is Kim experiencing a rush of catechcholamine, hormone humans or animals generate when they are extremely frustrated and infuriated. Like a cat bristling up and like a mouse biting a cat, they say it is power of this hormone that makes an ordinary person extraordinary. We cannot know how and in what form his despair will unfold. We only hope that despair is another name of hope for him, too.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial Writer yuri@donga.com