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[Opinion] Return of Hero

Posted June. 18, 2003 22:04,   


The Republic of Venice, one of the early modern period Italian city states, was a country that had anti-hero sentiment. Venezians were realistic and community-oriented. Being adjacent to the sea, they found trade with other countries was the only way to survive. They did not want power to be centered on a certain individual or group. They firmly believed that populism sought by a single hero was bound to lead the country away from national interests. The belief was in line with the `merchant of Venice` spirit prevailing in the wealthy country.

Leaders of Venice were very wary of individuals gaining popularity among the public. There was a political leader in the country. He was a mere figurehead, however, with the `10-men senior council` whose members were replaced every year deciding key national issues. They believed that individuals were not trustworthy after all and bound to be corrupt. Whether their anti-heroism is ideal or not is hard to tell. Yet, the fact that the republic lasted more than 1000 years before invaded by Napoleon was mostly thanks to their political system.

Controversy on heroism continues, but conditions of a hero are changing. In the past, heroes were those who successfully enlarged territories, won a war or saved their countries from crises. When stories of hardship and victory were added, the public cheered even more fervently. Thomas Carlyle, author of `Heroes`, noted that heroes make history. But we are not living in an era when a small number of politicians such as Napoleon or Cromwell change the course of history. Rather, we must be wary of bigotry and illusion of some politicians who believe they can do it all by themselves.

If we want to find a hero, we need to look down. Heroes in this modern world are those who do their best for their small roles and willingly sacrifice themselves. Then, sailors and navy officers injured during a naval clash in the West Sea in June last year can be heroes of the time. It is welcoming that Sublieutenant Lee Hee-wan, who was seriously injured at that time, has got well and returned to the Navy. When the society encourages and praise him for his sacrifice, this country will grow stronger. Unlike the humble soldier who says `I want to become a proud soldier for my country`, President Roh seems to be caught in distorted heroism - he continues to take side with such remarks `I will be a judge to decide whether I am a failure or a success`.

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