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[Opinion] Gangster Syndrome

Posted October. 16, 2002 22:58,   


People are crazy about gangster movies and dramas in much part because they feel sympathetic to `benign villains` like Robin Hood and Hong Gil-dong. They use force to steal money and treasures from the rich but then hand them out to the poor. They are men with wit and grits who teach the greedy a lesson, and their violence is overshadowed by the feelings of catharsis. Watching a group of gangsters with a tattoo saying `Be a good man` in a recent movie, I remember, people broke into a burst of laughter. The scene was, of course, a comic relief, but gangsters seem to have their own standards of being good and kind these days.

▷Present days much differ from the middle age when Robin Hood crisscrossed the country helping the poor. The benign images of gangsters are mostly made by the lopsided mass media. Following last year`s box office hit `Friends,` TV series `Age of the Outcast,` a story about legendary mob boss Kim Du-han is re-igniting the gangster syndrome. It`s fun to watch an interesting drama but there is a rub. The drama puts too much emphasis on heroism and loyalty while dealing with the world of violence.

▷In 1996 when TV series `Sandglass` was a sensational hit, it was reported that many young students imitated the fighting scenes in the drama. More recently, a high school student killed his classmate after watching the movie `Friends.` Violence and cruelty are spreading fast over the Internet as well, where people even share tips about how to win a fight. What`s more worrisome is that movies and dramas imply a message that gangsters are better than corrupt politicians. They violate the law but they are not as unethical and immoral as corrupt men in power. If this trend continues, people might get a wrong idea such as `What is wrong with gangsters?`

▷Of course, we condemn rampant corruption on the higher level. Watching corruption and irregularity scandals for the last few months, we came to realize how deliberately the haves violate the law and order. Yet, this does not justify the use of force by gangsters. There is no `benign villains` in the eyes of the law. Gangsters are just gangsters. The world is already confusing and hard to live. If the gangster syndrome penetrates the society, disorder will prevail and the weak will find it even harder to live on.

Hong Chan-shik, Editorial Writer chansik@donga.com