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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Jo Jung-rae interview in Ohmynews

There was a long interview of the novelist Jo Jung-rae (Cho Chông-nae) in Ohmynews a few days ago. I have previously expressed my great appreciation for his latest work, 10-part Han'gang, which depicts the modern Korean history from late 1950s to 1980 through the eyes of a wide array of characters. But he still can't get me convinced that the root of most of the evils is in the three major daily newspapers, and that Roh Moo-hyun government would be that radically different from its predecessor (in which Roh served as a cabinet minister and from which he became a presidential candidate).
Unfortunately but perhaps not surprisingly he speaks as if president Bush had expressed possibility of a preliminary attack on DPRK because of the nuke issue (부시가 핵 문제를 놓고 북한을 선제 공격할 수 있다고 말하는 것), but this is something that Ohmy wants to hear and print, in addition to the newspaper issue.

An interesting detail is that Jo Jung-rae is a personal acquaintance of Park Tae-joon, the former chairman of Posco, to the degree that Park was present in the opening of the Arirang Cultural Center in northern Jeolla dedicated to Jo's work. Park Tae-joon who was a close confidant of Park Chung-hee, a fellow perpetrator of the 1961 coup and a model representative of president Park's era if any, and also some sort of a guardian of pres Park's son. It has been noted that Jo has an unusually positive appraisal of Park Tae-joon in Han'gang, written in the form of a newspaper reporter making a story of the construction of Posco at the turn of the 1970s.
In an interview for Posco News he tells that he chose Posco and Park Tae-joon to represent the undeniable contribution of the Park Chung-hee regime for Korean modernization and economic development, because putting up president Park would have been difficult (어렵다) due to the yusin ("revitalization") dictatorship.
"First, as an entrepreneur he was constantly conscientious and exemplary. Secondly, he contributed to the change of Korean industrial structure through Posco. With Posco the Korean industry changed towards heavy chemical industries. Until 1972 steel worth of 100 million dollars was imported, but thanks to Posco Korea became self-sufficient in steel, and the price was 1/3 of the imported steel. The GNP per capita which at the time of president Park's death was 1000 dollars is now at 10 000 dollars. The contribution of heavy industry like Posco has been essential in that."
So even the novelist Jo Jung-rae cannot but admire all the dollars....

This detail finely illustrates all the ambiguity of the modern history of ROK: undeniable development and improvement of life amidst poor democratic record (which in the end turned better as well).

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