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[Opinion] Condemning History

Posted August. 19, 2006 03:02,   


Jimmy Porter, a college graduate who is a street vendor in the daytime and plays the trumpet at a jazz bar at night passes his days oppressing his explosive anger. Jimmy lets out his sense of frustration and deprivation through bullying and teasing his wife who is of middle class origin. This is the story of the play “Look Back In Anger” that the British a vanguard writer John Osbourne put on the stage in 1956. This work created a sensation among people who were suffering from a sense of loss in the post World War II era by describing the lives of the British working class with an angry face.

In our society, events that remind us of the title of this play have been taking place for the past 10 years. And it is not in the past tense but in the progressive tense. Politicians, civil and social activists, scholars, and all others are so eager to condemn and impeach "in anger” Korean history as if everything about it was wrong. They behave as if it is impossible to make progress toward the future without clearing and punishing such history. At the center of such sentiment is the 16th President of the Republic of Korea who defined the Korean history as a history where justice was always the loser and the opportunism the winner.

“Why should they only look back in anger?” asks Gwon Tae-jun, a fellow professor of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University. In the book he published on the Independence Day of Korea this year, “Korea, Stepping Over the Century,” he wrote, “The current ruling power is stressing its justifiableness by means of criticisms and denial against the past.” Mentioning the pride prevailing over the members of the society in the past, he asks back whether it is not founded on the successful and dynamic ‘nationalization` and the consequential political, economic and social developments.

Professor Gwon criticized the intellectuals who stick to the criticisms and denial against the past saying that they are an anachronistic group who fail to catch up with the mass who instinctively accept the global timeline of globalization. Does Gwon stand alone with his view? E. H. Carr, in his book “What Is History?” described history as an empty sack which can only be erected properly when someone fills in something. The intellectuals and the ruling group of this country will have to think about with what they should fill the empty sack of the nation with before taking actions.

Lee Jin-nyong, Editorial Writer, jinnyong@donga.com