Posts Tagged ‘Silla’

Lunar Land-scapegoat

June 22, 2017

Outmoded rituals –like the minor habits of daily domestic life– can be difficult to set aside even once their original purpose has long been lost to modern memory.  Nowhere is this more true than in the Moonrise Kingdom of New Baekje now taking shape upon the ruins remaining from Old Silla.  Amid the tumult and confusion of foreground regime change, longstanding cultural practices keep-on-keepin’-on … at the very margins of visibility.  Case in point, the presidential photo-op:

Way back yonder in the Lee Myung-bak era, Lunghu pointed out that visiting dignitaries at Cheong Wa Dae were sorted by their hosts into a hierarchy of international importance that was signalled by the subtly-coded backdrop before which the traditional handshake photo was staged.  Barbarian emissaries of semi-savage nations (Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia) were received in front of a Chosun-era folding screen depicting lowly foreign messengers performing their kowtow to the Korean emperor.  Diplomats and officials from valuable export markets in Europe and North America posed for their handshake with a glowingly resplendent golden screen behind them.  Close neighbors from China and Japan rated an auspicious Asian landscape painting replete with Sinitic symbolism.  A place for everyone, and everyone in their place.

This pattern from Lee Myung-bak’s Republic of Hyundai didn’t change during Park Geun-hye‘s Republic of Samsung, and thus far it hasn’t changed under Moon Jae-in‘s Republic of Candlepower.  That’s why Beijing-bound Beltway advanceman Richard N. Haass is backlit with a golden aura in the photo above.  Despite what Koreans might think of the monarch whose message he bears, the United States is still a precious ally in an unfriendly neighborhood.  As far as Koreans are concerned, the U.S. alliance is a vital relationship that can –and must– outlast four years of attempted sabotage inspired by Comrade Bear.

Upshift

That said, let’s never forget that national politics is –in every nation– a cutthroat, zero-sum, feast-or-famine struggle for survival.  So it should be absolutely no surprise that the newly-exiled courtiers of Old Silla (under the rebranded label of Liberty Korea Party) are seeking to exploit their well-established backchannel links with American conservatives to discredit the Moon government’s national security policies.  According to these hardened cold-warriors, a left-center/progressive/human activist like Moon Jae-in is someone who will place the freedom-loving Korean nation in jeopardy by being soft on China and squishy on Kim Jong-un.  Since President Moon currently has public approval ratings above 80%, they’ve inevitably chosen to attack his appointees rather than the man himself.  Thus their overt parliamentary maneuvering and covert media campaigns against foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha and national security adviser Moon Chung-in.

In fact, Hannara/GNP/Saenuri/Liberty Korea knows quite well that the new administration has no real wiggle room to dramatically alter inter-Korean relations: Kim Jong-un ain’t playin’.  Instead, what really worries the kleptocrats of Liberty Korea is the inevitable, inexorable impact of a looming government crackdown on chaebol corruption. Coming soon: a long overdue Brazilian-style carwash investigation, transplanted to Gangnam and points South-Southeast.

 

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Wilted Flower Knights

December 5, 2010

Things aren’t looking so good on the Korean peninsula right now, and Lunghu’s not merely referring to rising military tensions.   No, there are more serious cracks in the Korean facade than just a few stray howitzer shells on Yeonpyeong-do.

[Seokgatap,] one of the two ancient Buddhist pagodas that have stood for about 1,200 years at Bulguk Temple … shows fissures developing on an upper base … measuring 1.32 meters long and 5 millimeters wide, on one of its upper pillar stones.

There was recently a minor earthquake of magnitude 2.3 to 2.8 in the region, but its impact [on the damage to Seokgatap] is still uncertain.

Seokgatap is National Treasure No. 21 of Korea.   Bulguk Temple is located in Gyeongju, the millennium-old capital of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) –one of Korea’s three ancient kingdoms– which later (briefly) unified much of the Korean Peninsula.   Just in case the historical/cultural harmonics aren’t quite resonating for you, Lunghu would like to point out that Korea’s southeast is the political stronghold of the (currently) governing Grand National Party.   21st century Korean cultural production that emphasizes the glories of the Silla Kingdom is often sponsored by corporate supporters of the GNP.   Not surprisingly, “major restoration was conducted between 1969 and 1973 by the order of President Park Chung Hee (a devout Buddhist), bringing Bulguksa to its current form.”   (General Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, is currently leader of a major faction within the GNP.)

The omens aren’t auspicious.  Buddhism was the state religion of Silla, an officially sponsored faith whose state–protection aspects were emphasized.  “Silla kings adopted Buddhist names and portrayed themselves as Buddha–kings.  A great number of temples were built, often financed and sponsored by high ranking nobility, the most notable being Hwangyongsa, Bulguksa and Seokguram. ”  When cracks appear in one of the principal pillars of state power, nothing good can be expected to follow.