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[Opinion] Gangster Economics

Posted January. 31, 2007 07:09,   


There are redeeming features even in violence. Violent movies are categorized into action and horror genres, and nowadays there are even newly coined words, such as “Hong Kong Noir and “Spaghetti Western,” describing different types of violent movies.

Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan took local movies to the world stage. “Once upon a time in America,” and “The Godfather” went down as masterpieces in movie history.

Recently, ”Ong Bak,” which shows off the Thai traditional martial art, Muay Thai, has become the talk of the town because, allegedly, wires and computer graphics were not used in the movie.

There have been a variety of studies on the impact of violent movies and soap operas on real life. Professor David Phillips of the University of California at San Diego predicted future events quite well in a paper he wrote. In the paper, he said, “If a heavyweight boxing championship is broadcast across the nation, 11 innocent citizens will be killed within four days.” He traced murder cases before and after boxing matches for many years to write his paper. His predictions came true a number of times.

But what is more interesting is that those who murdered had something in common with the losers of the matches. For example, if a young black boxer lost a championship bout, the rate of young back deaths increased.

Many in Korea are worried over the fact that movies that glorify organized crime are on the rise. While comic films like “My Wife is a Gangster,” “Marrying the Mafia,” and “Marrying the Mafia 2” are unrealistic, “Green Fish” and “Friend,” are graphic and gruesome, and could spawn copy-cat crimes by teens. In the grisly flicks, friends kill each other for power and money. The protagonists, however, are depicted as manly and cool.

A study shows that gangsters’ lives are actually sickening, never mind being cool. Police officers say, “There is no such thing as friendship in the underworld. Gangsters do anything for money.” In his famous book “Freakonomics,” U.S. economist Steven D. Levitt describes in detail the miserable life of organized criminals by burrowing into the books of drug cartels. In the U.S., gangsters leave their organization when they land “decent jobs,” which are “odd jobs” or “menial jobs” at best. Movies are one thing; reality is quite another.

Heo Seung-ho, Editorial Writer, tigera@donga.com