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[Op-Ed] Temperate Mourning

Posted November. 19, 2009 09:30,   


The Analects of Confucius say, “Enjoy but do not be lustful, grieve but do not be heartbroken.” This is in line with the sage’s emphasis on keeping the middle path. The temperate mourning of Japanese families who lost their loved ones in the indoor shooting range fire in Busan Saturday reminds us of what Confucius said.

It is not difficult to fathom the shock and sadness of the families who had to see their loved ones die violent deaths in a foreign country. Those who came to Busan the following day, however, appeared to suppress their emotions and hold back tears. Rather than lashing out, they urged the Korean government to identify the cause of the fire via the Japanese consulate in Busan. Also missing was the typical news conference in which victims’ families appeal with tears to the public.

This style of moderate mourning has something to do with Japanese funeral culture, where the Japanese do not explicitly express their emotions in front of others. When an accident that claims the lives of Japanese in and outside of Japan happens, Japanese media report the circumstances and cause of the accident in an objective fashion, refraining from provoking public emotions and stoking conflict among the people. Strictly forbidden is sensational media coverage that presents a biased view to the public. Bereaved families never use their fallen kin as hostages to gain what they want. Such a calm funeral culture helps the parties involved to handle accidents more smoothly.

The governments and media of Korea and Japan have averted conflict by showing consideration to each other. In Korea, both the president and the prime minister offered their condolences to the bereaved Japanese families. The Dong-A Ilbo did its part by running an editorial and a contribution by novelist Lee Soon-won. For their part, the Japanese government and media have refrained from blaming Korea and spoke highly of Korea’s sincere and swift apology. Once again, we at The Dong-A Ilbo extend our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families on the death of their loved ones.

Editorial Writer Kwon Soon-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)