This author’s favorite writer is the literary critic Shin Hyung-chul. Once, my hobby was to eagerly search his name on portal sites and look for his latest essays. Thus, it was such great news that a collection of his essays, “Grief of Studying Grief” was published last year. When reviewing this book, one thing becomes clear - Shin “desperately” tries not to hurt even a single person. This journalist has also found that many people were offended by my own writing, unlike that of Shin’s work mentioned below.
His best essay in the book is “Welfare as Social Recognition.” In this three-page essay, the 43-year-old author delves into the true meaning of the “Taeguekgi (South Korean national flag) Rally.” Participants of the rally used to express thoughts such as: “President Park Geun-hye is innocent and what the press and the independent counsel team have insisted is fake.” They were regarded as crazy, while most agreed to remove Former President Park from office.
The critic, however, thinks otherwise. Looking at an interview conducted with the more elderly participants, he discovered that they seemed to regain the will to live through the assembly. What mattered was not the truth; they used this gathering to fill their empty lives with meaning. Shin stated, “If our society excludes the old from social recognition, by doing so, if they have established a gigantic power plant where they acknowledge each other and produce the meaning of life, then is it just to blame and ridicule?” This point is worth considering.
This reporter has also written regarding the “Taeguekgi Rally” as the editor-in-chief of The Argus. The event was the first item for the editorial section of the March, 2017 issue. I criticized those participating with a photo titled, “The Soiling of Old Glory” where a white person attacks a black person with the American national flag. “Therefore, this abnormal assembly could be summarized using the words, ‘The Soiling of the Taeguekgi,’” I wrote.
After reading Shin’s essay, I became shameful. This writer was one of whom viewed the participants only as the target of criticism without consideration of their situations. Nevertheless, though Shin and I observed the same subject, he was a stroke above me. How can we understand someone as he does?
“Human beings have hearts which study grief. I myself can never become you. However, unless I keep trying the thing that is planned to fail, what is the point of the saying, ‘I love you.’? We neither want to be selfish nor hypocritical but are miserably often a little bit of both. Fed up with this misery, I still study your grief. So, studying about grief is full of grief,” wrote Shin.
With such study causing distress, he yet manages to gain an understanding of others. Although being annoying and difficult, we may forever fail to understand other people without this type of sorrowful study. Are we able to understand each other? To do so, we must continue toward miserable failure, but is it possible? That understanding somebody demands incredible effort is what this reporter has realized these days.
By Lee Jae-won Editorial Consultant