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[Opinion] About the Identical Code

Posted May. 04, 2003 22:10,   


As professor of English Literature, I am often asked a question about the so-called `identical code with the president`. People ask what the code means in the expression and how it is spelled. It is not an easy question to answer. Some confuse a code with a cord, but we cannot say in English that there is a cord between the two people, how strong their bond is. So many think that it is about a code, but still the meaning needs clearer definition. The code here must not mean a written book of law in such cases as `the Napoleonic Code` and `the Code of Hammurabi`. It also does not seem to indicate an unwritten code, which refers to moral or cultural norms of a society.

Code is also used to refer to rules, customs and manners. When we say `the Confucian code of ethics,` it refers to rules of ethics. With `the chivalric code`. it is about rules of behavior. This might sound okay, but the presidential code seems to mean something more than the rules of behavior. The word `code` is also passed as a system of symbols or encoded signals,` but it could treat the president and his associates as a fraternity group if we adopt this meaning.

`Chord` instead of `code` might serve well, if the expression is meant to imply that they are sympathetic toward each other as well as share an ideology. `Chord` usually refers to a combination of musical notes, but it is also used to indicate `sentiment or sympathy` like in the expression `strike a chord,` which means `remind of something because of similarity.` But with `identical,` it hardly makes sense in English. There are such expressions as `to in tune with` and `be on the same wavelengths` in that regard.

In whichever case, the `identical code (or chord)` is a fun way of saying something in a roundabout way. The expression, however, makes most people, who do not have identical code with the president, feel excluded and insecure. We are now watching many new high-ranking officials with the identical code, feeling unease and unconvinced. And it will be better for us not to see the `identical code` part on the profiles of incoming key officials in the future.

Suh Ji-moon, Guest Writer, Professor at Korea University, jimoon@korea.ac.kr