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‘Hoengseolsuseol’ celebrates its 98th anniversary

Posted January. 26, 2018 08:10,   

Updated January. 26, 2018 08:47


“The Buddha did ‘hoengseolsuseol’ for 49 years.” The word “hoengseolsuseol (rambling)” refers to talking at length in a confused or inconsequential way. But it originally had different meaning. It meant explaining about something in an easy and coherent manner. When the Buddha propagated Buddhism, he changed words and phrases into easier ones to enhance understanding. This is the origin of the word hoengseolsuseol.

On the front page of the 100th edition of The Dong-A Ilbo on July 25, 1920, the column “Hoengseolsuseol” was first introduced. It started with the sentence, “Countless words in this column will be nothing but hoengseolsuseol (rambling).” Well? Scathing criticism of the times followed in the next sentence: “Newspapers freshly printed out of the printing press are frequently seized by the police for the reason of violation of the law. Liberty of the press is brutally trampled on in this country.” After the column was suspended of publication for an indefinite period for celebrating the 7th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement, the writer was sentenced to eight months in prison for writing, “It is either suspension or prohibition for the press.” The column was silenced in August 1940 when The Dong-A Ilbo was discontinued by the Japanese Empire, uttering a cry “You won’t get away with this.”

The column came back on January 1, 1955 and continued its fierce criticism of the power and the regime during the presidencies of Rhee Syng-man, Park Chung-hee, and Chun Doo-hwan. On April 21, 1960 during the April 19 Revolution, the column wrote, “I feel extreme rage watching the horrific scene where young men are brutally shot and fall down like a piece of wood. I am so dumfounded that I cannot even write.” Three days after Seoul National University student Park Jong-cheol died, the column wrote on the January 17 edition in 1987 that “The death of Park is irreversible.” After that the column leveled criticism on the death of Park for a whole month.

“Hoengseolsuseol,” which celebrates its 98th anniversary this year, is the oldest column in Korea. But the media is eval‎uated on its spirit, not on how old it is. The media has the responsibility to be accurate, fast and fair. Thirty two years ago, celebrating the 20,000th edition of The Dong-A Ilbo, the column wrote, “A newspaper, whose spirit does not get old, will last for a long time.” The tongue of “Hoengseolsuseol” will never get old until it reaches its 40,000th and 100,000th edition.

Kee-Hong Lee sechepa@donga.com