Monday, January 01, 2007

Ave, Metropolitician!

Saddam Hussein's execution spawned an excellent, Korea-related post over at Mike Hurt's fine blog. A great excerpt:

When you're Saddam Hussein, you're no longer a person, no longer an individual, but rather the figure who made policies that affected whole populations – without their consent, and usually beyond the bounds of any semblance of law, morality, or anyone's notion of decency.

And in the case of an entire population held in control by the power of the gun, once they're out from under it, you are literally history. And that's what this is about – starting a clean slate, in terms of history, identity, and being free from the shadow of the past that a still-living dictator inevitably casts. As long as that man lives, you can't really be free of him.

So the question is – why is Chun Doo Hwan alive and well, free and comfortable, living high on the hog in one of the richest neighborhoods in Seoul? When I asked that question to a few Korean friends, the responses were variations on, "Come on – how can you kill a former president?"

My American response would be, "Umm, with a firing squad, lethal injection, hanging, or being dragged to death by wild horses. Choose one."

If the guy was held responsible for all kinds of crimes against the nation and its people, and was given the death sentence by said state, why is he chillin' like a veritable villain in his house in Pyeongchang-dong?

Well, maybe the collective memory of Korean folks is like they say it is – like a thin, tin ramen pot – in that even national indignation cools down as quickly as it heats up.


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