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[Opinion] Uncivilized Country

Posted August. 25, 2005 02:59,   


There are trends even in taking sides. While most people now divide themselves according to whether they are conservative or progressive, and whether they live in the Gangnam area or not, at the end of the Middle Ages and in the beginning of modern times, the standard was whether they were civilized or barbaric. Barbarism is a beast-like state. Sophisticated urban dwellers looked down on those living in rural areas with livestock. However, dead and live animals were strewn around the table during a banquet. “It was disgusting with food crumbs, animal bones, grease, and even dog and cat droppings mixed together.” The book Erasmus wrote in 1526 on table manners became an etiquette bible for the new bourgeois class.

Jeremy Rifkin said, “The dinner table was the classroom that made Europeans civilized,” explaining that it was related to individualization, individualism, and human rights. However, it was still shocking to the Chinese who prided themselves in their advanced civilization at the time. They said, “Europeans are barbarians. They eat meals with knives which seem like hunting tools.” The standard of civilization seems to differ according to the time, place, and subject.

After the September 11 attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush divided the world into civilized and uncivilized countries, and urged civilized countries to participate in punishing uncivilized states. This is in contrast with the Muslim world which views the Crusades as uncivilized. If civilization refers to the overall material, spiritual, and social development of mankind, then people can reach a consensus on what uncivilized is. As seen when President Roh Moo-hyun said, “Terror attacks against innocent citizens are uncivilized crimes that can not be tolerated,” regarding the series of bombings in London, damaging human dignity and rights is clearly uncivilized.

Not many people would think that Korea, the 11th largest economy in the world, is an uncivilized country. The Seoul Bar Association said, “If retroactive law is used to violate basic rights, Korea will become a lawless uncivilized country,” regarding the controversy on disclosing the contents of the wiretapped tapes. No matter how much thoughts differ according to political factions, if you ask yourself, “What if the contents of my phone calls were disclosed to the world?,” the answer becomes clear. On which side are you going to stand?

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