Go to contents

[Opinion] A Nation of Gentlemen

Posted January. 13, 2006 05:19,   


The would-be Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Energy (MOCIE) and former Uri Party head Jeong Se-kyun was criticized for “seeking his own interests” because he did not inform the party of a reshuffle he knew about.

He confessed later that he had been notified of the fact a day earlier, reversing his words that he was told on the very day. He was also disclosed to have contacted MOCIE officials when the main opposition party was in turmoil over the reshuffle. In addition, he received the seventh Baek Bong Gentleman Award, given to the most gentlemanly lawmaker last year.

The term “gentleman” originates from the “gentry” that replaced many of the aristocrats in parliament after the War of the Roses (1455 to 1485) in the U.K. The gentry mostly consisted of small-scale landlords, but it has expanded since the modern era to include successful merchants, priests, and managers.

Today’s “British gentlemen” are considered ideal male figures that are symbolic of care for women and the weak, decent manners, strict discipline, and dedication to the community.

They are the ideal of women as well.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair set out on January 10 to declare “a restoration of social respect” in order to recover the country’s reputation of being a nation of gentlemen. This is a move to build respect for one another as British community spirit and social discipline disappear to the point of it being called “a nation of hooligans” recently. On Fridays in London, loud drunks, the destruction of public facilities, and gang fights between teenagers are easy to find. Anger management and consumption control are needed.

Korea is also suffering from a severe lack of gentleman-like spirit. We cannot see any from the political circle, where it is all about division and fierce conflict not caring for the national interest, and interest groups that prefer fighting over dialogue in problem solving. People even talk of the “collective egoism-driven law” being the foremost of all laws.

Individuals also are likely to lose when they try to win in a gentlemanly manner. It seems that Korea still has a long way to go before transforming itself from a “nation of fighters” into the one of “gentlemen.”

Han Gi-heung, editorial writer, eligius@donga.com