Hu­mane lessons from Korean tragedy

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Aclose neighbor is bet­ter than a kins­man afar. Un­for­tu­nately, this Chi­nese adage, which people have be­lieved in for cen­turies, was for­got­ten by some ir­ra­tional Chi­nese ne­ti­zens af­ter a South Korean fer­rymet with an ac­ci­dent onWed­nes­day. The multi-story ferry car­ry­ing 477 people, a ma­jor­ity of them high school stu­dents, on an overnight trip to Jejudo Is­land, sank off South Korea’s south­ern coast, leav­ing about 290 people miss­ing— pos­si­bly trapped in­side the ves­sel.

Chi­nese have al­ways be­lieved that a tragedy is a tragedy. Fol­low­ing that spirit, many Chi­nese ne­ti­zens hope that the miss­ing pas­sen­gers will be res­cued alive.

But some ne­ti­zens, set­ting aside all hu­man val­ues, have asked: Why didn’t the almighty “Korean wave demigods” Kim Soo-hyun and LeeMin-ho rush to save the pas­sen­gers? Worse, some oth­ers have said South Korea de­served it — in a re­sponse to a South Korean TV an­chor’s ir­re­spon­si­ble re­marks on last July’s Asiana Air­lines crash-land­ing in San Fran­cisco (in which two Chi­nese pas­sen­gers died) and South Korea’s “grab­bing” of China’s cul­tural her­itages. Such re­marks have sparked a heated on­line de­bate, with many ne­ti­zens crit­i­ciz­ing their ir­re­spon­si­ble coun­ter­parts for their cold-blooded com­ments.

How­could the thought­less ne­ti­zens for­get that ever since Flight MH370 went miss­ing onMarch 8, the at­ten­tion of people across China has been fo­cused on the search op­er­a­tions, which have been joined by many coun­tries? Don’t the people who have posted the reck­less com­ments on­line know how the fam­i­lies of the 154 Chi­nese on board the ill-fat­edMalaysia Air­lines plane have been feel­ing?

Just a week ago, a bus car­ry­ing 47 people, most of them pri­mary school stu­dents, on a spring out­ing over­turned killing eight stu­dents in Cheng­mai county, Hainan prov­ince. People across the coun­try are still mourn­ing the vic­tims, with many urg­ing the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties to tighten safety rules dur­ing spring out­ings. The South Korean ferry, too, was car­ry­ing 324 stu­dents and 14 school staff on an ex­cur­sion.

All people have the same heart, goes an­other Chi­nese adage. People, ir­re­spec­tive of whether they are Chi­nese or South Korean, know the value of kin­ship and feel the same pain when they lose a dear one. There­fore, some Chi­nese ne­ti­zens’ in­sen­si­tive “none of my busi­ness” at­ti­tude is a shame and de­serves to be con­demned.

Only people who know each other quar­rel. You can­not pos­si­bly quar­rel with some­one you don’t know. The same ap­plies to coun­tries, es­pe­cially neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, and there is noth­ing wrong with it.

China is SouthKorea’s largest trad­ing part­ner coun­try, and SouthKorea isChina’s third-largest. About 40,000 South Korean com­pa­nies are do­ing busi­ness in China. Bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume reached $25.63 bil­lion in 2013, which also saw more than 20,000 people trav­el­ing daily be­tween the two coun­tries.

Given the ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity, it is nat­u­ral for China and South Korea to share cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties. It is in­deed es­sen­tial to ap­ply to UNESCO to getWorldHer­itage sta­tus for China’s cul­tural her­itages. But is it nec­es­sary to con­demn and hate South Korea for ap­ply­ing to UNESCO to get World­Her­itage sta­tus for on­dol or Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val? A coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment de­pends on its present and the fu­ture, so we should learn from the spirit of in­no­va­tion that South Korean en­ter­prises have shown.

Talk­ing about cul­ture, the “Korean wave” has cre­ated a con­tro­versy in China. While some young Chi­nese, es­pe­cially women, have fallen in love with the “Korean wave”, oth­ers de­spise the Korean TV dra­mas say­ing they are for “men­tally re­tarded” people. The im­por­tant thing is for people to agree to dis­agree. What may be naïve sto­ries for some could be the stuff of dreams for oth­ers. The “Korean wave” can be seen as a com­peti­tor of Chi­nese pop cul­ture but not as a cul­tural in­vader. A ris­ing China should be more open­minded and in­clu­sive, in­stead of be­ing in­su­lated.

In­deed, af­ter the Asiana Air­lines plane crash-landed in San Fran­cisco last year, South Korea’s “A Chan­nel” host Yin­qingMin made an in­sen­si­tive re­mark: “The lat­est news! Yes, two people, Chi­nese rather than Korean, died in the ac­ci­dent… re­ally lucky, eh!” But he had to pay a heavy price for that, and the South Korean for­eign min­istry later apol­o­gized for his rude ex­cla­ma­tion.

People-to-people ex­changes and their per­cep­tions of each other are fun­da­men­tal to bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. Ir­re­spon­si­ble re­marks passed by an in­di­vid­ual do hurt people’s feel­ings. But that doesn’t mean the other side should lose its hu­man­ity and sense of good neigh­bor­li­ness.

Con­fu­cius has said: “Rec­om­pense in­jury with jus­tice, and rec­om­pense kind­ness with kind­ness.” There­fore, to pave the way for good neigh­borly and friendly re­la­tions, people in China and South Korea, which share the legacy of Con­fu­cius, should re­frain from pass­ing ir­ra­tional com­ments that will cre­ate or deepen mis­un­der­stand­ings. The au­thor is an edi­tor with China Daily. zhup­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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