Sunday, October 09, 2011


It was 29 May 2009, the day the national funeral for the late South Korean president, Roh Moo Hyun, was held. There was still one hour left before the end of my Korean language class but my teacher was too distraught to carry on. After getting consent from the students, she stopped the lesson and switched on the TV. The live broadcast of the funeral proceedings in front of Gyeongbok Palace was on air. At that moment, a choir sang the late president's most favourite song "상록수" (常綠樹, Evergreen), a song which accompanied him through his fight for Korea's democratic reform and later, his bid for the country's highest office.

A cold wind swept through the class. The tears in my teacher's eyes were unstoppable. From Gyeongbok Palace, the view was switched to the Seoul Plaza where millions of Korean were already gathered to mourn the demise of the people's president. The aerial view of the plaza and its adjacent areas showed a sea of yellow, an image which was unmistakably one of nation in deep grief.

When asked what was his life's motto during an interview in Japan, Roh Moo Hyun quoted Kim Gu's "대붕역풍비 생어역수영" (大鵬逆風飛 生魚逆水泳), translated as "big (mythical) bird flies against the wind, live fish swims against the current". He believed a man of conviction does not bow in the face of adversity, he stands tall. Roh Moo Hyun never made compromise by taking the easier way out, he always chose the difficult route to trek on and for that, he was given the nickname "바보 노무현" (Roh Moo Hyun, the fool).

"Babo" (바보, 笨蛋, fool) may be a derogatory term, but it is a term which Roh Moo Hyun liked very much because it describes his non-mainstream and non-conformist character very well. In his attempt to break the unhealthy practice of regional politics, Roh Moo Hyun (a Liberal) stubbornly chose to run for National Assembly seat and mayorship in Busan, a "fortress" of the Conservatives, in 1992 and 1995 respectively. Without a doubt, he lost both elections. Below was his thought on being called "babo":

"내가 그동안에 사람들이 나에게 붙여 주었던 별명 중에서 제일 마음에 드는 별명입니다. 정치하는 사람들이 바보 정신으로 정치를 하면 나라가 잘 되거리 생각합니다. 어쨌든 그냥 바보 하는 게 그게 그냥 좋아요."

(All this while, there were many nicknames attached to me, but among them, I like "babo" the most. If politicians can act with the mentality of a "babo", I think it will do the country good. Anyway, being a "babo", I just like it.)

"그냥 바보 하는 게 그게 그냥 좋아요." - I just like being a fool

As a kid, I was already captivated by the beauty of Apple computer. Its attention to beauty details extended right down to the cursor. Till today, I cannot forget how its cursor used to radiate in changing rainbow colours. Some labelled Steve Jobs an inventor equivalent to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, but I see him as an artist. His single-minded quest for perfection, his not-so-pleasant temperament, have all the markings of a great artist. He once quoted Pablo Picasso as saying, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." In real life, Steve Jobs 'stole' the idea of graphics user interface (GUI) from Xerox and perfected it with artistry to a state where it become the default standard for all computing platforms. Microsoft could not have done it better except to copy. Without Steve Jobs, computer may just be a chunk of metal that works but never an art form which we can proudly display.

At the end of Steve Jobs' famous commencement speech delivered in 2005 at Stanford University, he said, "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you."

"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Where are all the fools in this world? The world needs you, the world misses you.


  1. sigh* he is one truly inspiring role model to all.Steve will be greatly missed :(

  2. Steve Jobs works for his own revolution, but President Roh worked for altruistic reason. It is unbalanced comparison. Totally different case. We wonder how do you think why so many koreans mourned that so deeply of just one of their president's death.

  3. Roh moo hyun is the President in my mind ~ !