Tuesday, August 4, 2015

South Korea

The national flag of South Korea appears to be a tennis ball constructed around the symbols Yin and Yang - the Yin is blue and the Yang red (why is it a tennis ball, when surely it should be a golf ball?) The four Trigrams, which are called "Kwae" in Korean, represent Heaven (three unbroken bars, top left), the Earth (three broken bars, bottom right), water (one unbroken line between two broken bars, top right), and fire (one broken bar between two unbroken bars, bottom left). The Kwae are positioned to balance each other: Heaven facing Earth, Fire opposite Water. The white background symbolises peace and purity and the flag as a whole is known as the "Taegukki", which means "great extremes". Great extremes is a very accurate descriptor for South Korea.

After half a century of Japanese colonisation, Korea obtained independence at the end of World War Two, only to divide between the Communist north supported by both the Soviet Union and China, and the western-supported south. Division equals war, and this one lasted from 1950 to 1953, with both sides attempting to reunify the land under its authority.

Though the army ran the country for the next forty years in a strictly authoritarian manner, it pretended a quasi-civilian role while doing so, and elections of a sort were conducted. Only in 1993 did a fully democratic President take office, inheriting considerable economic success – mostly the state-sponsored growth of family-owned companies such as Samsung and Hyundai - which has been continued.

In the 1960s GDP per capita was at much the same level as most of the poor nations of Africa and Asia; by 2004 it had joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies, and is currently rated twelfth. President Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000, both for his contributions to South Korean democracy and for his "Sunshine" policy, which at least attempted to engage with North Korea, though it was largely unreciprocated. The current President is Park Geun-hye, herself the daughter of another former President, Park Chung-hee. Women clearly are not a suppressed or subjugated gender in South Korea (a statement which may have been proven false by the discovery that tens of thousands have been conscripted into prostitution by the government in order to keep the American troops rested and recuperated), though there does appear to be a spirit among the women that tends towards world domination, at least in the world of golf. At some point, one suspects, the 10,000 US soldiers stationed in South Korea are going to have to do something about this unacceptable situation in which Stacey Lewis is running number two to Inbee Park.

Marks for: 6 (the number of years since a non-South Korean won the US Women's Open Golf championship)

Marks against: 30 (the percentage of history books in South Korean schools which express overt hatred for the Japanese)

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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