Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Gap and Eul Culture in Korea

Recently, we have seen the words 'Gap' and 'Eul' in articles and editorials. A Catholic Times columnist explains that the words are usually used as names of legal parties in a contract, but originally derived from the first two words in a list of 10 "Heavenly Stems" and another list of 12 "Earthly Branches," denoting a period of 60 years in the old Chinese calendar. In English we would probably say A and B.

They now have meanings that were not in the words as they were first used: bigger and smaller, stronger and weaker. This kind of thinking has been associated with a number of incidents where a person's position in society allowed for the demeaning of another who was not, according to that person's standards, of comparable worth. "Bigger and stronger" would be Gap; "smaller and weaker" would be Eul. One company, for example, used its strong position in the marketplace to force a small retailer to buy more than they needed. Such incidents have recently been reported in the media, giving rise to the expression "The Gap and Eul Culture."

Thinking in this mode is certainly not only a Korean phenomenon but evident throughout the world. It is prideful thinking that often comes with a prominent position in business or in any organization or group where some believe themselves superior to the others in the group. In a contract, the Gap party is seen to be in the favorable position, with the Eul party being disadvantaged and having to respond to the Gap party. The columnist reminds the reader that there is always a bigger Gap above him, and it's easy to forget that there is room for the positions to change. There are circumstances when we are Gap and at other times Eul, but most of the time we give in to the illusion we are always Gap.

When we are treated as Gap, there obviously is no problem. When we believe we are treated as Eul, anger can easily arise. With this rather long introduction, the columnist sees the Gap-Eul phenomena not only as a problem in society but also within the Church. There are many cases within the believing community where the difficulty Christians are experiencing comes from the results of this kind of thinking. From the II Vatican Council we know that the community of  believers is a fellowship of brothers and sisters who are to communicate with each other as equals.

"Each one of you is a son of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with him....All are one in Christ" (Galatians 3:26-28). This understanding by St. Paul, the journalist stresses, is not only true of his time but for all time. He concludes his column with the suggestion that we look at ourselves to see if we are not acting like an ultra Gap. To be one with Jesus requires that we lower ourselves, and not be afraid of being considered a EUL.

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