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Mind your own business!

Posted April. 05, 2014 05:18,   


A scene of “Lady Vengeance,” a 2005 Korean movie, depicts Geum-ja, the main character played by Lee Young-ae, being released from prison after 13 years. When the pastor gives her tofu, saying, “Don’t commit crime and be a good person,” she throws it away. Then she becomes stony-faced and retorts, “Mind your own business!” The phrase was popular and almost like a “zeitgeist” in 2005 under the Roh Moo-hyun administration as it criticized hypocrisy in society. The phrase was popular in North Korea as well.

The origin of “mind your business” is Venerable Hyobong (1888-1966), a former head of the Jogye Order and Venerable Beopjeong’s teacher. When his student snitched on his fellow monk, saying, “There is a monk who drinks an alcohol and meets a woman,” Venerable Hyobong said, “Did you see him? Boy, mind your business!” He hated back-biting others. “Mind your business in Korean” was a popular phrase used before toasting at year-end parties last year. In Korean, the words could be read as an abbreviation of “For the good year for both of us.”

Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, the ruling Saenuri Party’s floor leader, got mired in controversy. He retorted “Mind your business!” when Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, one of the co-leaders of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, was addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday. Ahn sarcastically asked, “Is it out of sincerity to the president or overstepping the presidential authority?” on Tuesday as Choi apologized on behalf of the president for not fulfilling the president’s pledge to abolish candidate nominations for low-level administration chiefs and councilors. Choi must have said so in a fit of anger because he felt ridiculed openly during the speech to the National Assembly. But he lost manners as the ruling party’s floor leader to the first time lawmaker and co-leader of the main opposition party.

The controversy is getting more serious as the parliamentary ethics committee mentions a disciplinary action. The ruling party’s floor leader could have been witty had he mimicked Geum-ja when saying the phrase. Now, it is no use crying over spilled milk. Words have different level of dignity and meaning depending on who says them. The phrase was interesting when Geum-ja said it, but it stirred controversy when Choi said it. Mr. Choi, “Why don`t you mind your own business!”

Editorial Writer Choi Yeong-hae (yhchoi65@donga.com)