Before I published this post, I removed the introduction and changed the title. After receiving some criticism for this post, I decided to reinstate them in the hope that I wouldn't sound quite as cynical as I did. When this was first published, it was titled "A great place to go for Valentine's day" (don't ask why, I'm not sure myself). Under the photo of the children was the caption "Don't cry, honey. Wait until you're in front of the cameras." Yeah, that was a bit much. I'd like to change more, but won't. The reinstated bit goes from here to the beginning of the Joongang Ilbo article.
Years ago, a few weeks after moving to
It was one of those moments when I remembered that, despite the cellphones and traffic and supermarkets that seemed like home on speed, I was living in a very different culture.
I had another one of those moments when I read this Joongang Ilbo article:
Tears shed at altar at Namdaemun
Shaking off the bitter cold, a stream of mourners continued to visit Namdaemun yesterday to see the rubble with their own eyes and pay their respects to the ancient structure. In the grass plaza behind the 610-year-old gate, a makeshift mourning altar was set up with apples, pears and soju on a picnic mat. A traditional funeral song blared from a speaker.
Visitors waited in line to offer a flower and bow twice, as is done at a traditional mourning altar for a dead person.
Children were among the mourners, as well. “I want to see your beautiful face again as soon as possible,” read a letter written by an 11-year-old elementary school student, placed in the midst of piles of flowers.
“The gate disappeared so unexpectedly, so Koreans are in shock. The gate was a representative symbol of our country and people think of it as a living creature,” said Yang Yoon, professor of psychology at Ewha Womans University.
Ah, so that's why, then. I guess it has nothing to do with the presence of cameras, which mean that this is being shown on TV and in the newspapers and on the internet, and which means these people have a large audience in front of which they must act appropriately (by, say, shedding tears), which then draws more people to take part in something that makes them feel like they're part of a larger group. Right? I mean, we've never seen the presence of cameras cause people to suddenly break down crying before, have we?
I just wonder how people are going to act when the newly rebuilt Namdaemun (or Sungnyemun, as everyone has gotten into the habit of calling it since Sunday) is unveiled in a few years. I don't think there are many Confucian rituals for resurrection. Christians have a popular one, of course. If the media here follow the lead of the west, perhaps in a few years children here will love celebrating Sungnyemun's resurrection. I mean, who wouldn't love hunting for Sungnyemun- shaped chocolates that were hidden by a giant bunny?