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[Opinion] Dew

Posted September. 26, 2008 07:35,   


Dew represents purity. “Pure dew was put in a dish/overcoming the cold in the night deep in the fall mountain/ But it was too little/ to relieve thirst/Will there be more dew if one more night passes.” Poet Ma Jong-ki used dew to describe his pain and desire to find a pure language in his poem “Eyes of Dew.” Dew also symbolizes lack of meaning, with the word occasionally used to describe pure and untarnished people often likened to orchards growing in rainfall and dew.

Choi Yeol, former president of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, said yesterday, “People say a civic activist must live on dew but one also has the right to enjoy cultural activities.” He even shed tears, calling a probe into embezzlement allegations against him a targeted inspection and political oppression. He might have wanted the attention of civic activists, who are paid little despite juggling a heavy workload. Internet users criticized him, however, with one saying, “I didn’t pay taxes for your cultural activities. I paid them for your environmental movement.” Another said, “If he wants to use the money to enjoy cultural activities, he should use his own money, not those of others.”

The head of one civic group said, “As long as one is not a freelance activist, one who leads a huge organization like Choi must always worry about employee payroll and maintenance fees. Even though one wants to live on ‘dew,’ one cannot.” Founded in April 1993, the environmental group is a rare huge civic organization in Asia with around 80,000 registered members and about 30,000 card-holding members who pay membership fees regularly. Of course, their contributions to advance Korea’s civic movement to what it is today are undeniable. Some say the investigation into Choi is intended to discourage the activities of civic groups that joined the anti-U.S. beef protests of the People`s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease.

It is a different story, however, if the civic group’s leadership used the organization’s money for personal purposes. If the leaders used tax money, they should have kept perfect records of bills and receipts and made the balance sheet transparent. Civic activists can earn respect from the people only when they are determined to serve and sacrifice themselves with the “spirit of dew.” What Choi meant by “dew” will become clear only after prosecutors end their investigation.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)