Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Kachi Kapchida

Just so to set the record straight that I am not all doom and gloom I intend to relate some observations about a small nation comprised of a heterogeneous people group. There is a purpose to my story, as I believe my observations here will directly relate to points in later posts.

The people that I refer to fought a bloody war with their northern neighbors and former country men. Families fought and died on each side. A visitor to this nation cannot help but be struck by the amalgamation of old and new, agrarian and technological. This people enjoy a long history albeit not altogether one that might be considered successful. Numerous other people have attempted to occupy and oppress them over the years; most succeeded. Reverence of family and respect for one's elders is not only good manners in this nation but also required social behavior. Within this people lives a keen sense of self-identity and pride. They have a propensity to drink too much and dance weirdly and socialize profusely. Despite the drinking, and accepted drunkenness this is a very moral people, at least on the surface. Skimpy clothing, pornography, homosexuality and many of the things flaunted so openly in other places are frowned upon and virtually unseen here. To top it all off they produce some pretty good barbeque.

Does this people sound familiar. You possible may be thinking that I am talking about the Irish, they have fought a war more or less with their northern cousins. Before they were Irish their Celtic ancestors were driven from most of Europe. But these are not the Irish, although some make the comparison.

I can personally see a grand similarity with the Scots (although the primary historic nemeses of the Scots is the to the South not North). If I were to tell you that most of the Christians in this nation are Presbyterians the similarity might be more apparent, but this is not Scotland despite the abundance of mountains and vales.

There is a distinct similarity to my own homeland in the South. In fact the further south one travels in this nation the more obviously Southern things become. The barbeque changes; the dialect even changes to omit a few of the vowels natural-born Southerners find offensive. But alas this is not my home.

The nation I speak of is of course the Republic of Korea if you have yet to figure it out. For all of the similarities to other people there are differences, variances that only disappear when you begin to understand the nuances of this culture.

I think it is important to discuss Korea because as a people they represent what is good and bad for the future of the world, and more specifically the future of liberty, freedom and morality in the world.

I am in Korea presently of course, thus the occasion to remark and commentate on things Korean. I have been here before but this time I have learned much more. In the last several weeks I have been struck by the fervor over the World Cup. I am of course not a soccer guy, I have a theory about nations that play soccer and their ability to consistently win wars but that is not the point. In Korea soccer is big, big in a way that an American football fan cannot grasp. Sure in the US a momentary flash of solidarity and pride might surface during special times like say the 1980 Olympic hockey match against the USSR. For the most part Americans are happy to send overpaid professionals off to compete against the world and care little for the results, i.e. the inaugural World Baseball Series. Korea’s win in that event was a spectacular event to watch, every Korean watched, every Korean felt pride in being Korean by watching.

A few weeks ago I began to notice a preponderance of red shirts everywhere I went. On the Korean television channels I began to see commercials with folks doing this little dance to this catchy little song. My daughter learned all the words to the song; I still do not know what it means. I began to hear the song everywhere and all Koreans around would sing it. Then the billboards went up and I made the connection, it was the World Cup of soccer that had everyone so pumped up.

I do not mean to trivialize an entire people with a discussion of their dedication to their national sports teams. Truly, to a Korean this is not trivial, it is the same pride that lives within them and calls them to their homeland, tells them who they are and where they belong.

Korea is a pretty good example of a people that struggled for and desired sovereignty for many years. The Chinese and Japanese occupied this land at various points. The early history of the ROK-US alliance is filled with machinations by the United States into the domestic affairs and political structure of the South Korean government. Today, however, South Korea is strong economically and militarily; they are fully capable of standing alone against their northern cousins.

The point to be taken from an analysis of Korea is what they have done with their freedom and sovereignty. The older generation, those affected by the war in 1950, is stoic, conservative, frugal and moral. Their parents and grandparents struggled under oppression. As young folks they either fought an aggressor for their freedom or had their entire lives torn asunder by the death and destruction that plagued the entire peninsula. They remember and have remained true to their core.

The younger generation is different entirely. They inherited the pride, sense of identity and love of country but lost something significant. The fire in the belly is gone, gone too are many of the social restraints.

Abortions are prevalent here because the younger generation is more concerned with finances than with moral imperatives. The large Presbyterian church is silent on this issue. It is really rather a touchy feely organization more concerned with worship than solid theology. Morally, things that once would have been unacceptable in public now find their way into the mainstream. Adultery (public) and divorce are not unheard of now. In some ways this is still 1950 America, in others the moral decline is apace with the rest of the world.

Koreans use their freedom to protest everything. They are rapidly traveling a path toward socialism, faster even than in the United States. Anything and everything that the people could possible want can and does generate a protest. Protest can and do result in more governmental programs to correct whatever perceived wrong generated the protest in the first place.

In one generation the Korean people have forgotten their struggle for freedom and now clamor for the government to save them, never fully realizing they are in fact trading one master for another.
There is indeed something to learn from Korea and Koreans. The struggle and sacrifice required to achieve freedom is not the end of the journey, it is the beginning. Complacency and moral decline followed freedom in Korea and fast behind that a new form of tyranny has taken root. We would do well when considering restoration and redemption in our localities to keep the lesson of Korea in mind.

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