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[Opinion] Supermen Return to Korea

Posted July. 19, 2006 03:01,   


He appears out of nowhere and comes to the rescue of those in trouble. “Superman,” an American film, was a mega-hit blockbuster of the day when it was first produced in the 1930s. Americans living in gloom in the wake of the Great Depression longed for a superman like a hero in comics. The unrealistic superhero in a fiction took America, trapped in frustration and despair, by storm.

The movie Superman came back again during the 1970s when the U.S. economy suffered a recession. The remake movie, in which Christopher Reeve starred and Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman played supporting roles, enjoyed explosive popularity. The film comforted Americans who found themselves helpless after losing the Vietnam War. But the superman boom faded away in the 1980s as the U.S. economy began to recover on the strength of Reaganomics. It seemed that America would no longer need to fly a superman as it could fly a spacecraft.

Heroic performances of Korean “Supermen” are in the news. Eight mountain climbers saved lives of some 50 residents from a disastrous flood in a village of Inje, Gangwon Province on July 15. They moved the residents to safe ground when they retreated to the roofs and waited for help. Some buildings were swept away by floodwaters as soon as residents were saved through ropes. The climbers training for ascending a mountain overseas were supermen for them. They had to leave for Seoul by bus because all of their cars were washed away. They are told to have left after even declining a token of appreciation. It sounds like the last scene of a movie.

“Superman Returns” is applauded in the U.S. today. It is said that what brought back Superman was the sense of insecurity after 9-11, fatigue from the prolonged war in Iraq, and economic and social depression. To Koreans also getting concerned about security and economy, the appearance of climber supermen gave comfort. They saved lives not in fiction but from a catastrophic disaster in reality. They are real heroes, even though they cannot fly. It is more touching because they risked their lives to save others in a drama without stage settings and re-runs.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com