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Roh’s passing

May 25, 2009

I overslept on Saturday morning, having had a late night out. I was awakened by a call from the lobby. My host Ban had dutifully arrived at 8 am to pick me up. We were going to Gyeongju for the day, a historical spot off the coast of the Sea of Japan. I grabbed a quick shower and by 8.30 I was with him hurriedly digging into my breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was shortly after when his cellphone rang.

From the expressions of shock I sensed that something wasn’t right so I asked him if everything was okay. He broke the news. Their ex-President Mr. Roh Moo Hyun had died, he said. Something about a probable suicide but the details weren’t clear. I cut my breakfast short. Is it safe to go? I asked. Yes, he said. Nothing to worry about.

So we got into the waiting car and listened to the radio on the way to the train station. It was all in Korean and by the time we reached the station, more details had surfaced. Man, this is bad timing, I thought.

gyjstnI’ll probably write about the trip to Gyeongju some other time but what conusmed my attention at the time was the reaction of the people around me – at the station, in the train, and in the places we went. It was sombre. I think people were still struggling with the news that was just barely hours old. Mr. Roh seems to have many fans.

We reached Geongju a few hours later. Some parts of it looked like it was stuck in time – in the Three Kingdoms era. There wasn’t enough time to see everything I wanted to see, even with a company official driving us around. I had to be back in Seoul that night as I had a plane to catch to Singapore the next morning. No matter. I now have a great reason to come back for a second trip.

namsan_smAnyway, Ban dropped me off at the hotel at about midnight. There were people on the streets but it wasn’t as bustling as the night before. We also heard about a makeshift memorial downtown that had been set up.

I don’t know much about the South Korean political scene, only that nearly every president had gotten into trouble with the law after they left office. No one’s perfect but to me, this incident underscores one admirable trait in the Koreans and Japanese that escapes many. Conscience. While I may not agree with the method (suicide), the fact that the powerful can actually feel enough remorse to take personal responsibility for a wrongful act, now that’s true honor.

I admire the society and I have a feeling it will go far.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2009 10:24 am

    In Malaysia , if our agung dies ..

    people celebrate cause tomorrow is a holiday 🙂

    I’m not sure if that is good or bad…

  2. May 25, 2009 11:19 am

    Well, when they feel they are not doing the job properly…or they’ve let the supporters down… they will jz step down.

    On the other hand, their counterparts in a land far far away would never admit their own mistakes and would resort to anything just to keep their jobs…even though they’ve let the people down many times before.

    You mean the US Congress? Hahaha….

  3. May 25, 2009 12:32 pm

    It’s not that far away, Alvin. It’s only a few hours flight away… Conscience? Never heard of it! Of utmost importance is the peoples’ perception.

    Yup. That’s very perceptive of you. 😀

  4. May 26, 2009 9:32 am

    I forgot to put “a land far far away” 😛

    Is there a difference? Hehe…

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